In life-transformation work, we typically toil with guests (and even staff) who journey vertically: valleys to peaks to valleys. And if we’re honest, those of us in leadership sometimes find ourselves traveling along parallel paths. We do something incredibly brilliant only to follow it up with an unbelievable act of stupidity. And I’m not just talking about business decisions. Let’s be honest; we also make poor choices involving our values. We go from honorability to embarrassment, be it public or private.
When was the last time you had an I-can’t-believe-I-did-that experience—falling flat on your face instead of standing tall on your principles?
From what I see in Scripture, one of our faith heroes—one who was the standard of stability in a pagan culture—may very well have known the prone position. Sunday school teachers never mention his likely embarrassment, but they should if we’re going to get a realistic look at leadership.
What was Daniel doing when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were standing tall in defiance of Nebuchadnezzar’s decree? Some Bible teachers say he was likely on a business trip or was exempted from the edict. But there is no biblical basis for this conjecture (even though they want that to be the case). I believe it’s quite possible that Daniel was on his face in the sand, afraid of the consequences of offending his king. We don’t like to think of our Bible heroes having moments of weakness and regret, but so many did. They were human.
In chapter one, Daniel stood for his God when it came to eating food and wine from the royal table. In chapter two, he became a palace hero, telling and interpreting the mystery dream—and giving credit to God.
But what happened in chapter three? A bizarre image of gold gleamed in the Babylonian desert. (My prof in Bible college taught that it was a phallic symbol because of its dimensions and the existing culture.) All the multinational leaders of the land—Daniel was now one—received an invitation they couldn’t refuse.
Once they were assembled, a herald told them to worship the image (i.e., the pagan culture) or burn. Could it be that Daniel was so caught up in kingdom (small “k”) work that he simply decided to lay low (figuratively and literally) in this situation? It would have been very easy to blend in with the horizontal horde. After all, the king had just lavished trophies and a title on him. Why make a scene and risk the relationship—and death?
Interestingly, his three protégés may have showed him up. They stood for their God, endured the flames, and ultimately received the respect previously bestowed on Daniel. Having an I-can’t-believe-I-did-that experience on the plain of Dura may have been the reason why, in chapter six, he threw open his windows and prayed in view of his foes, defying Darius’ decree.
Despite being placed in positions of leadership, we’re all, on occasion, bound to bow. It’s how we rebound that tells our story. Are you in a prone position today? Don’t just lie there lamenting. Move up and move on. Look at the example of Daniel (or maybe even some of those working for you), and then rise and stand tall for truth.