Like a Prophet – Respected Everywhere Except Your Home Land

Let’s get back to working our way through The Gospel of Matthew.  We had left off with Jesus describing the Kingdom of Heaven and telling parables to help people understand it.  From Matthew 13: 53-58: When Jesus finished telling these parables, he left that place and went back to his home town.  He taught in the synagogue, and those who heard him were amazed.  “Where did he get such  wisdom?” they asked.  “And what about his miracles?  Isn’t he the carpenter’s son?  Isn’t Mary his mother, and aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers?  Aren’t all his sisters living here?  Where did he get all this?”  And so they rejected him. Jesus said to them, “A prophet is respected everywhere except in his home town and by his own family.”

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Because they did not have faith, he did not perform many miracles there.Years ago I was attending the funeral and luncheon for my grandmother, who raised me as her son in her house since I was 6 years old.  We were very close.  She was the rock, the foundation of our household.  She was an elementary math and English teacher, who had taught in the one room country schools that were common in the midwestern United States even until the 1950s.  She was known to be a good teacher; fair, caring, yet tough when she had to be.  She was loved in our small Iowa farming community.She passed away when I was in my mid-20s and finishing graduate school. At the reception in the church basement I was explaining to some of her teacher friends, many of whom had taught me in elementary school, that I had just finished my master’s degree and had hoped to do career guidance and counseling for undergraduate college students.  I had been attending the University of North Dakota, where raw temperatures had been dipping frequently to about -35 (farenheit) with wind chills to -70.  To help deal with this brutally cold weather, I had grown a full beard and my hair at the time was fairly long but well-kept.  Heck I even looked like a prophet.  No matter.  When I told them of my plans, the coursework I had taken, and the practical experience I had gained they were quick to tell me where I was lacking and prompted to shush me when the pastor was ready to give a blessing.

So, even though I had grown in many ways, I was NOT going to have any wisdom that would “surpasseth their understanding.”  To them I was still the little 8 year-old who couldn’t wait until school was over and couldn’t get to the baseball diamond fast enough (that was true, I confess; first one there, last one to leave – that was me).Years later, while on a lean journey at a manufacturing company, a colleague of mine would sometimes allude to Jesus’ comment that a prophet isn’t welcome in his home town.  How right he was.  The point he was making was that although he and I could often coach teams down successful paths, the fact that we had become considered locals, even though we had lived in several states, worked in varying fields, and had been exposed to  many different perspectives during our careers, it didn’t matter much to our co-workers.  We were just Mark and Tom.  Our guidance was sometimes considered, well, let’s just say, not all that valuable.  And, yes, we made errors at times.  When consultants would come to visit our plant we sometimes felt envious of how our colleagues would hang on their every word (sinful to feel this way, I know).

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But in time, once familiarity between them and our plant managers set in, those managers would go after the consultants like a German shepherd on a dropped steak.  So, it didn’t matter whether you were an internal lean coach or an external consultant – once familiarity set in, no one was a “prophet.”Of course, this is all inherent and normal.  Much like a family, in some ways. It can be very frustrating as a lean coach, though, when you are confident you are taking a team in the right direction but your ideas are passed off as either off-base or unimportant because you’ve become a prophet in your own land.  There lies the challenge – to continue to try and break through.

The best way I know to do this is to work with people to solve some of their problems.  The proof is in the pudding.What have been some of your methods to “break through” when you’ve felt like a prophet in your own land?  Let’s hear them.Special footnote:  A few years before she died, when I was finishing my bachelor’s degree, I asked my grandmother, “How come I always got stuck with those tough old ladies for teachers when I was a kid?”  Grandma gave me a sly smile and told me, “I made sure you had them for teachers because they were the best ones.” Thanks, grandma.  If you hadn’t done that I’m sure my life wouldn’t have been nearly as good as it is today.

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