For older leaders, a threshold time is when they recognize that the way they used power – – by achievement and association — must now gently transition into power by wisdom.3

For my husband, it was when he realized he was weary, driven and lonely when he was at the top of his profession.

For a close relative, when asked to expand his leadership responsibilities, it was when he admitted out loud, “I am not ready for the rest of my life.”

For John Piper it was when he realized his soul, marriage, family, and ministry pattern needed “a reality check from the Holy Spirit” in order to deal with “several species of pride in my soul … that have taken a toll on my relationship with my wife and others who are dear to me.”4

For Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, it was the realization that he had no “conscious communion” with God and that the Bible was “the dullest, most uninteresting book in existence,” even while he was seeing hundreds converted to Christ through his ministry, and receiving the adulation of thousands more.5

For Saul, it was when the light and voice blindsided him and blinded him with the hard truth that his zeal for God had hurt God; it took him three days and 14 years to work through the implication of that!

Threshold times happen at any stage of life. They are not simple yes and no answers to life’s tests. They demand essays from us, sometimes 3 day essays, sometimes six months essays and sometimes 4 to 14 year essays.

Threshold times do more than pose the question, “What am I going to do now?” They cause us to ask, “Who am I going to be now?” Like drill sergeants, threshold times get in your face and give you three options: leave, stay, or change. Threshold times come to us as pebbles in our shoes or mountains in the road, but no matter the size or intensity or duration, they are so significant that if we don’t recognize them, or we do recognize them and yet persist in avoiding them, we will not mature into the next stages required of leaders.

Disciplines for Threshold Times: Moving from the Competitive to the Collaborative and Contemplative

We can’t go into threshold times doing the same ole-same ole. Moving into something new means we have to do something new to get there. What got us to where we are now has been a lot of good old fashioned competitiveness: the drive to do more, know more, have more and be better. That’s all well and good. We are building our container, we are faithful fruitful stewards. We are accustomed to pushing ourselves, yet in threshold times, we find that the disciplines we need are ones that will help us stay in the threshold with no anxiety to move on. We have to be attuned to the present in order to learn what it is trying to teach us.

3 See Janet O. Hagberg, Real Power: Stages of Personal Power in Organizations for excellent insights on how leaders must always reinterpret power according to their stage of life.
4 Piper took half a year off in order to do this. Christianity Today, March 2010, in an article written by Collin Hansen entitled “The Toll of Our Toiling,”­‐only/23-­‐21.0.html.
5 Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God, by David McCasland, 1993. Chambers was in this threshold for four years as he wrestled with his pride of not wanting others to see his desperate condition. In his words, “God will make it known to those who know you best how bad you are in heart. And I was not willing to be a fool for Christ’s sake.”