I vividly remember when I finally had to make the decision to abandon my career at the U.S. Department of Justice to become the first employee of a not-for-profit organization that didn’t yet actually exist called International Justice Mission. I had worked for three years with friends on the idea of IJM and was very excited, in theory, about this dream of following Jesus in the work of justice in the world. But then I had to actually act. I had to walk into the Department of Justice and turn in my badge. This was unsettling.
Accordingly, I tried to be both very brave and very safe. That is to say, I walked in and asked my bosses for a yearlong leave of absence. That way, if this whole not-for-profit thing didn’t work, I could get my job back. No harm done. Failing to see my unique value to the U.S. Department of Justice, however, my bosses politely declined.
Now, at the very threshold of all I had prayed and worked for, I was suddenly feeling very nervous. Indeed, the demand that I actually cut loose my career forced me to confront what I really believed about this adventure, and I had to confront my fears. What was I really afraid of? As I thought about it, I feared humiliation. If my little justice ministry idea didn’t work, no one was going to die. If IJM turned out to be a bad idea and collapsed, my kids weren’t going to starve. We’d probably just have to live with my parents for a while until I could find another job. The fact is, I would be terribly embarrassed. After having told everybody about my great idea, they would know that it was a bad idea or that I was a bad leader. Either way, it would be humiliating.