Sunday, January 3, 2016

leaning in

I had heard about the book a while back. All good things. It seemed like the kind of book that could illuminate my journey as a woman in academia. But the dissertation didn't leave much time for extra reading, so I tucked away the idea for a rainy day.

Months elapsed. A year or two, maybe.

In December, after turning in another revised draft of my dissertation, I decided it was time. Thanks to its popularity, it was easy to find Lean In at the public library. Some of you will chuckle that I found time to read a book by the COO of Facebook before I found time to actually join Facebook. I know. That's so like me. (However, I did finally join Facebook last week, so feel free to send me a friend request if you'd like!)

It's not supposed to be a self-help book, but I found it tremendously helpful. It's not exactly Sandberg's autobiography either, but she opens up the windows of her life and lets us all look in. How does a woman lead well? How can she balance family and career? How can she navigate a man's world without losing her femininity? (It turns out that Evangelicals are not the only ones wondering about this!) Sandberg's big idea, the one she comes back to again and again, is that women need to lean in to the opportunities in front of them. Yes, sometimes women are overlooked, at a disadvantage because of our gender, hitting glass ceilings. But Sandberg says women often sabotage our own success by holding back. We are hesitant to walk through an open door because we aren't sure how we'll manage everything on the other side. Women regularly turn down opportunities well before it's necessary (e.g., a single woman avoiding a promotion because she imagines it will interfere with her future role as wife and mother). At Google and Facebook, Sandberg has observed this time and again.

There is certainly a time for "no." But saying "no" enables us to say "yes" when the time is right.

That time came for me sooner than we expected. I was ready to lean inActively praying about how God would have me serve now that I'm coming to the end of my PhD. Circling that topic in prayer. But my spring semester was still relatively open. On a fluke, Multnomah didn't need me. Aside from putting the finishing touches on my dissertation and defending it, I thought I might try to publish an article or two. Maybe paint some interior trim or catch up on the family scrapbook.

Then the phone rang.

The department chair from George Fox. Wondering if I could possibly teach a class . . . immediately. One of their adjunct instructors had backed out at the last minute, leaving him with a slot to fill. School starts next week. It's not an accident that he thought of me. I've been in touch with him for over 2 years, hoping that someday something like this would develop. It didn't take us long to decide. Danny and I had both been feeling that now was the time for "yes." I was eager to lean in. For four long days I crafted a syllabus, putting on the finishing touches yesterday.

Then, this morning in church, we sang a song that harnessed Sandberg's thesis in service of our ultimate purpose as believers: worship. The lyrics jumped off the screen. Written just for me. Exquisitely timed.

Spirit of the Living God
Spirit of the Living God
We only want to hear your voice
We're hanging on every word. 

Spirit of the Living God
Spirit of the Living God
We're leaning in to who you are
Everything else can wait.

After all, it's possible to lean in to the wrong thing, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons. Leaning in will only bring life when our deepest desires are shaped by worship.

Yes, lean in. But not just in any direction. Lean in to HIM. Let him transform your desires until the thing you want is the thing He wants.
"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)
The song continues . . .
When you come in the room
When you do what only you can do
It changes what we see and what we seek.*

This week I'm soaking in the grace of fulfilled desires. The "thing" itself pales in comparison to the presence of the Living God who has acted, and continues to act, on my behalf. 

May 2016 be a year of leaning in. Not to earthly success. But leaning in to the presence of God and embracing all He has planned. Everything else can wait.

*Vertical Church Band c.2015


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this Carmen, spoke to me in the perfect moment in a completely different way and purpose. God is RAD all the time, and all the time GOD IS RAD!

  2. Love this! Putting Lean In on my book list for 2016, it sounds like a good one.

  3. Brian, I'd love to hear your song story sometime!
    Carmen, I think you'll find the book interesting. I'm glad I read it!

  4. what a great reminder to LEAN IN to our God! This is so timely for me to read right now, thank you Carmen. (I've been intrigued by Sheryl Sandberg's story myself after reading an article she wrote...looks like I may need to read the book now.)