By LESLIE LUDY
Eric is a Humble, Godly Leader
Living in the public eye has not been easy for either of us. We’ve been a source of curiosity and interest to others for most of our married life. Our wedding video was viewed by over 100 people (some who didn’t even know us personally) because word had gotten around about the uniqueness of our love story and the fact that we saved our first kiss for our wedding day. During our first year of marriage, so many people wanted to know about our love story that we finally decided to write it down in a book so we wouldn’t have to share the details over and over again. Little did we know that because of that book, we would still be writing and sharing about our love story twenty years later!
We have never sought after public attention. In fact, we often try to shoo it away. Just this past year we were approached by a major television network to do a documentary series highlighting our love story and the principles we teach about godly relationships. In some ways, it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to expand our platform and reach. But it was also going to be a major invasion of privacy to have cameras following us around everywhere and millions of people examining the details of our lives and marriage relationship. We said no – not because we have anything to hide, but simply because we didn’t want that much of a spotlight aimed at us. We don’t like being placed on a pedestal. And we don’t like living in a fishbowl. Living in the spotlight isn’t glamorous – it’s actually quite stressful. Eric and I know that fact all too well from personal experience.
Public attention isn’t something we’ve wanted – it has just come with the calling that God has placed upon our lives. And while we count it a great privilege to exhort and edify the Body of Christ, there are times when the constant attention from others has been stressful. For the past twenty years we have not had the luxury of anonymity. Many of the decisions that we make on a personal level have an impact upon thousands of people. This can be a heavy weight to carry.
Being leaders has been a great joy in many ways, but it has also been a “thorn in the flesh” because we are constantly being scrutinized and nit-picked by other people. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” While this verse is speaking primarily about the Great Judgement, we have found the principle to also be true in this life. People judge us far more harshly than they do others. They are quick to tell us what they dislike about us or what they think we should be doing differently. If we stumble over our words or say something less than perfectly, we are sure to hear about it later from someone or another. And though we do our very best to handle every person and every situation under our jurisdiction with the utmost sensitivity and integrity, there are always those people who twist our words and misunderstand our hearts.
Don’t get me wrong. We receive loads of positive encouragement from those who appreciate our ministry and our leadership. In fact, we receive far more encouragement than criticism. But the criticism is always there, and sometimes we take the brunt of people’s ire simply because they hate what we stand for and the truths we represent.
Only someone who has walked this lonely path of leadership can truly understand the weariness of soul that often comes with this position. I once heard Elisabeth Elliot say, “Loneliness is a required course for leadership.” Truer words were never spoken! There have been times when we have been sorely tempted to take the easy path and just be “buddy buddy” with everyone – never taking a strong stand for certain truths, never disagreeing with anyone, never challenging those under our spiritual care. That way, there would never be any conflict and the criticism would not be so intense.
But one of the reasons we have never succumbed to this temptation is because Eric is such a godly leader; he is far more interested in honoring God than in making things easy on himself. He will not compromise God’s Truth or God’s direction upon his life simply to gain popularity. In fact, I have watched him choose the harder path time and time again – the path that he knows will bring more difficulty and conflict, but the path that truly honors God.
I have observed many Christian men today who are convinced that they are fighting for truth and honoring God by their staunch refusal to back down on certain doctrinal points and their railings against anyone who disagrees with them. Yet their attitudes are anything but God-honoring. They exude pride, anger, and hostility rather than humility, love, and respect. The Bible is very clear that, no matter how “right” our words or doctrine may be, we cannot truly honor God or stand for His truth unless our attitudes reflect the nature of Jesus Christ. (See James 3:11-18.)
I believe that the primary trait that makes my husband such a godly and effective leader is that he stands strongly for truth in an honorable, Christ-like way. He is one of the most passionate “fighters for truth” of our day, and yet he is humble, approachable, and open to correction. He does not bash or criticize those who don’t agree with him; he responds to challenges with genuine love and honor. Time and time again, I have watched him give a “soft answer” in the face of wrath. (See Proverbs 15:1.) Time and time again, I have seen him turn the other cheek while being verbally abused and stabbed in the back. Time and time again, I have seen him lovingly and gently appeal to one who is entrenched in sin and pride.
Never have I seen him return anger for anger, pride for pride, or bashing for bashing. While it’s true that Eric has a forehead of flint when it comes to the glory of God and the truth of His Word, his attitude and character is marked by a consistent, gentle Christlike humility. He is firm and willing to show “tough love” when needed, but never is he harsh, unreasonable, or disrespectful, even in the face of hatred. I constantly witness him exuding the heavenly wisdom described in James 3:17: pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
There are so many situations that Eric deals with as a Christian leader that, to me, seem nearly impossible to respond to in love, patience, and honor. And yet because of the grace of God upon his life and the godly leader that He has shaped him into, I’ve seen him graciously and dexterously handle situations that would cause many other men to fly off the handle in anger and frustration.
Though Eric is a strong leader, he is quick to receive godly correction – whether from the Spirit of God or from someone in a position of accountability in his life. He once heard a leader say “humility is measured by how quickly you admit you are wrong” and that is a principle he has endeavored to live by – even in the small areas of his daily life. If he speaks too abruptly or says something insensitive to me or one of the kids, he immediately asks forgiveness and corrects his attitude. No, he is not a perfect husband or father, but he readily acknowledges his mistakes and makes them right quickly. A lot of children grow up with harsh, angry, or prideful fathers who never apologize for anything. My children, on the other hand, have the privilege of growing up with a humble, gentle, loving father who is quick to acknowledge and correct his faults. Eric is setting an incredible example of godly manhood for them. And for this, I am eternally grateful.
In addition to these qualities of humility that I continually observe at home – I also witness a correctable spirit in Eric’s ministry life. He gladly and willingly submits to the team of counselors God has given him. There are many times when a ministry decision must be made and the answer seems clear and obvious to both of us. In these situations, I have sometimes pressed Eric to move forward with the decision because I feel an urgency to do so. But he never makes a hasty or brash decision. Instead, he tells me, “I want to get the counsel of our staff and advisors before we move forward. There may be something to the situation that you and I are not fully seeing. Let’s wait and get their perspective first.”
Eric carries this teachable attitude into every area of his life and ministry. While he will not respond to “correction” that comes his way in the form of prideful rantings or angry bashings from distant naysayers (“this wisdom does not defend from above, but is earthy, sensual, demonic,” says James 3:15), whenever a challenge is brought to him in a spirit of godly humility he will always take time to listen, consider, and pray about it. Many times, he has made adjustments to his teaching or approach to leadership after receiving the iron-sharpening perspective of a godly counselor in his life.
I am able to speak into Eric’s life, and he willing receives my input and my challenges with humility. Never does he move forward with any course of action unless I am at peace with it – be it in family or ministry life. When I have a concern, he takes it seriously. When I see something in his life that needs to be corrected, I am quick to point it out, and he is quick to respond. We provide strong accountability for each other because we’ve given each other a position to speak straightforward truth into our lives.
I am certainly not saying that Eric and I never argue or disagree. With two strong personalities like ours, clashes of opinion from time to time are inevitable! But by the grace of God, we have developed a pattern of “submitting one to another and be clothed in humility” as it says in 1 Peter 5:5, and this has been one of the most powerful tools for unity in our marriage.
Pride seems to be the downfall of many a godly leader today. And it is certainly the downfall of many a Christian marriage. I can honestly say that I have never seen Eric controlled or blinded by pride, no matter how strong his convictions are. I am so incredibly grateful that God has blessed me with a husband who is marked by godly humility.
Principles for Cultivating Humility:
Humility is the key to making relationships thrive – whether a marriage relationship, a family relationship, or a friendship. But godly humility doesn’t just happen. It must be pursued and cultivated within our souls. If walls of pride and anger have built up between you and someone in your life, it will be a hindrance to your relationship with Jesus Christ. (See Matthew 5:24.) Ask God to melt the walls of pride in your own heart, and be willing to take the first step toward reconciliation, even if the other person doesn’t acknowledge his or her own faults. Romans 12:18 exhorts, “…as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Be willing to ask forgiveness for anything that you have done wrong in the relationship – even if their wrongs seem to far outweigh your own. You can only be responsible for your own soul, not theirs. And often, when you humble yourself and take the first step toward making things right, it will help to melt the walls of pride in the other person. As it says in Psalm 133:1, “How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”