When You Feel Guilty About Leaving

When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1:19-20

My clients—women who are feeling stuck in the nonprofit sector—often feel guilty over leaving their role, whether that is volunteer, staff, or board member. Most likely, the attraction to the nonprofit sector began because they could fulfill a need and found a place that suited their passion and style. And, of course, they connected with the nonprofit’s pursuit to make the world a better place. But what happens when those needs are no longer a challenge? What happens when she totters on the edge of burnout? What happens when the woman knows it’s time to move on, but can’t because the thought of that exposed need is uncomfortable?

Jesus knew the needs. He knew when people needed him, and he was the only one who could do what would make them whole. He also knew when to leave.

In fact, the people he called to be part of his team left the job. Not with a month’s notice. Quite literally, they left the job unfinished, when the clock on the shift was running, with the need exposed. Even worse, it was the family business! Yet, they left.

Jesus says elsewhere that the poor will be on the earth for as long as the earth exists (Matthew 26:11). The work of those in the nonprofit sector will never be done. The need for one more person, one more passion, one more service to make this world better for one more person will exist.

And sometimes, you have to leave before the celebration from a job well done. If you know that your time at a particular nonprofit is drawing to a close, consider taking the following steps:

  1. Be honest with yourself, and those around you in what is coming next in your life.
  2. Wrap up as many projects and tasks that makes sense, or at least to a place where the next step launches a new phase. Do the things only you can do. Settle yourself in knowing the work won’t be done when you are done.
  3. Find your finish line through prayer. There will be things undone but being able to say you are done is powerful.
  4. Pray for the person who will be the next to fill the gap. Pray for their growth, and empowerment to bring their own strengths and flavor to the role. Ask the God of Peace to provide for that person…and for you!

Once Jesus calls, you must follow; Even with undone tasks and projects.

Prayer: Jesus, I can appreciate feeling needed at a nonprofit. But I know you have great plans for me, and for the people in the nonprofit I serve. May I be attentive to your call when it is time for me to move on.

Do you have a finish line in your sights? Like this post so I can pray with you, or share your story on Facebook. @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Pre-order Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse because of marital struggles, before September 28, 2021. A pre-order helps make the book more visible on September 28. Thanks!!

Photo by Mitchell Ng Liang an on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

Are You Failing as You Finish?

…but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.

“Come now; let us leave.”

John 14:31b

I was at a conference where a woman shared her struggles about succession planning, but she wasn’t struggling with finding the next leader. She knew her executive director was making plans for her to take over, and she didn’t want to take the lead. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this expressed from a female nonprofit leader; That while they love the organization, they don’t want to lead the organization. Oftentimes, the desire to be on the front lines instead of administration, or younger children at home, or even just evaluating the hours a top leader puts in is enough to keep a woman from wanting to be the leader.

In this particular case, she felt that if she were to leave, that the organization would be let down…that there was no one who could fill her shoes and enter leadership within the next year or two. Not only would the executive director be leaving, but also the one who had been in training for 11 years. That’s no small decision, knowing the organization might flounder.

Yet, she said something profound that has rattled in my mind. While thinking about what would be left undone, and what would be difficult for the organization to achieve without her institutional knowledge, she felt a deep sense of failure on her part for leaving. The guilt of knowing that it would be difficult for new leaders to learn the lessons she learned. And then, she realized that “it’s not failure. It’s a finish line.” What profound words.

How many times do we continue to push, just one more task, campaign, year…only to realize there’s another task, campaign, year? How many times do we claim that this job was the calling, and that without it we aren’t doing what God “wants?” How many times do we determine that our vocation is our calling, when in fact, it may be part of the calling, but not the ultimate vision God has for us?

In her release of the guilt and responsibility, this woman physically looked happier, brighter, and more loving. She found what Jesus may illuminated in John 14:31.

Jesus sets the example to do what our Father says to do. But he doesn’t stick around to make sure that everything gets done the way we want it, or that the person coming after doesn’t experience failure. Rather, Jesus makes a bold statement that he does “exactly what my Father has commanded” (emphasis mine), and then, he leaves.

Quite literally, the disciples hear the lessons of how to love well and prepare better, and then they physically leave the room. However, metaphorically, I see how this could be an indication that after we have done what God said to do, we leave. There’s no permanency. When the task is done, leave. It’s not failure, it’s a finish line.

Don’t get stuck in the prep work or the guilt of moving on. When it’s clear it’s time, finish, even when it feels like failure. The leaving is a way to follow God’s command.

In what spaces are you potentially hindering the mission because you feel guilty for stopping? Where are you stuck in leaving? If the struggle is real for you, give a like on Facebook so I can pray for you. @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Attend a free one-hour webinar, Organize Your Organization on this Thursday, June 3 at 5:30 pm Pacific Time. This webinar is to help you set up your organization, and also a few tips on how to organize your own work. Register here.

Photo by Leon Seibert on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.