When I originally started this blog, it was in the wake of a situation where I had to more than just release someone from my ministry; I had to “uncover” them. Before anyone goes there, no, I don’t mean I went all over social media or anywhere else and started talking trash about them. I didn’t do it because they were a huge disappointment to me; I did it for them, as much as I did it for me. I had to release them to themselves, to come face-to-face with who they were, because as long as I was covering them, I was enabling them. That wasn’t fair for them, or for me. I was so determined to make sure that as a minister and a leader I didn’t lose face and people didn’t think badly of me or my ministry, I covered up her inadequacies. No matter how much we might not like to admit it, it’s something we do a lot when we are covering. Those we cover are a reflection of us, in one semblance or another, so we do what we feel we have to do. It’s our hope that we will help, and guide, and instruct, and cover, and do so in love, and we will see the change, the enlightenment, that needs to come.
Sometimes, however, that just never comes.
We talk often about a “covering” in church, but what happens when we are “uncovered” and that covering removes itself? We like to think that as long as we run from person-to-person and stay in churches or with leaders, that we are truly “covered,” but is this true? The answer is in the results.
Most often, we use the term “covering” to refer to someone being someone’s leader. The term itself comes from a movement that is not necessarily the most Biblical in its autocratic style, but it has come to be used in different ways, to imply something different from the way it was originally used, by most today. It is not my belief that leadership should be static or autocratic, nor so authoritarian in nature that people are abused and mistreated by their leaders. We’ve seen a lot of this over the years, and with so much of it running around, the concept of personal accountability to a leader has gotten a bad rap. There are many people who believe we should not embrace personal spiritual leadership for ourselves, and this has led to many who often live their lives out loud and uncovered, sometimes to disgraceful and dislikable ends. As with all things, I think we should strive for better understanding on topics than abandon them all together, and find a middle way instead of adopting such extremes.
In my own perspective as a leader, who has not just led people but truly covered them over the years, I feel our explanation of “covering” is found in 1 Peter 4:8:
Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. (NLT)
In the leadership role, we are called to love those we lead, and in the process, cover – transform, saturate, and impact – the “sin” and failings in their lives. It is not something only leaders should do, but it is something that starts with leadership. If you are in a ministry that runs rampant with gossip and harshness, that probably starts somewhere, with the leadership. In true covering, there are no big “I’s” or little “yous,” and the human nature, with all its faults and failings, are embraced as transformation takes place. It is a protection, a protective barrier as we teach all in a congregation or a ministry to love one another. Leadership is not just about autocratically teaching from a distance or all about policy and procedure, although both are certainly a part of leadership training. Covering brings the element of divine purpose into relationship, about the connection between the leader and the person they lead, and that somewhere, some way, transformation may come.
That’s a mighty important aspect of covering; it should transform. Leaders have the responsibility to execute loving discipline when someone is not doing what they should, repeatedly. If issues come up, time and time again, and a leader continues to cover, it should be not only appreciated, but realized for what it is. Good leaders spend a great amount of time working the things they do in order to cover the sins and failings of their people, keeping them encouraged and pushing them to go forward, and above all, working hard to make sure the work of ministry is done.
For many years, I worked in and with ministers who wouldn’t receive the work of covering. They refused to be transformed. One particular situation took so much of my time, I became a catalyst to try and keep the work together. I realized, after a particular incident, there was nothing left I could do. Not everyone receives, nor appreciates the covering of a leader, and in such a situation, an individual is left, uncovered. In this particular situation, leaving it uncovered meant allowing it to be revealed for what it was and the real “issues” behind the issues could finally come out. Whatever happens as a result is up to the people, but I know, for myself, I did what I could. Just as when we refuse to be transformed by the love of God, we sometimes experience “tough love,” so the same was true, here, in this situation.
I have since learned just how important it was that I uncovered what was covered up. I had to stop being the catalyst for individuals, because covering their sin and covering who they were was keeping them from looking at themselves. The issue wasn’t being forced enough, and they needed to realize they weren’t quite who they thought they were or presented themselves to be. If love doesn’t bring about this realization, then it must be uncovered and made bare.
Luke 12:2: The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. (NLT)
Uncovering isn’t always about a leader’s presence in one’s life, but when someone has done for another for years without change, sometimes uncovering is necessary to be real. Sometimes things need to be uncovered and made real, not so much to the whole world, but to the individuals involved, so they can finally change. When it reaches a point that love is covering sins and failings so one doesn’t have to deal with them or change them, that is a time when, in love, that situation needs to be uncovered.
Sometimes we need to just deal with reality, and in uncovering, this is what happens for both parties. Sometimes the reality is that people aren’t who we think they are, sometimes people aren’t what they make themselves to be, and sometimes that needs to be exposed for what it is. In every situation, leaders need to pray about the best course of action: Is it right to keep holding on, and covering, or is it a situation where it is time to remove the cover and allow uncovering to take place? Uncovering doesn’t mean being mean and vindictive, and taking vicious action against another. It simply means loving someone enough to make them reach out and desire the love of God, to transform their sins and their ways unto salvation, instead of hoping that we can love someone enough to do it for them, when we certainly, cannot.
© 2017 Lee Ann B. Marino. All rights reserved.