One of the most difficult questions that almost all church leaders face at one time or another is whether to stay in their current position or leave. Beyond fervent prayer and sensing a clear understanding of God’s will, we look for concrete signs to provide guidance.
But what are those signs? They can differ for each person and each circumstance but there are few common signs to look for before making a decision. I found some of those signs revealed in a surprising source, the 2000 comedy-drama film Chocolat.
Chocolat tells the story of Vianne Rocher, played by Juliette Binoche, and her six-year-old daughter, Anouk, who follow the north wind drifting from town to town like her mother before her. They arrive in the fictional French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes at the beginning of Lent. Vianne opens a small chocolate shop, much to the dismay of the mayor, Comte de Reynaud. Soon, she and her chocolate influence the lives of the townspeople of this repressed French community in different and interesting ways.
Vianne wears more colorful clothing than the village women, is an atheist, and is a single mother. Although not fitting in well with the townspeople she is nevertheless optimistic. With a friendly and alluring nature, she begins to make headway with some of the villagers, but most shun her and her shop. All the while the austere Mayor Reynaud works relentlessly and unscrupulously to undermine her. Eventually Vianne decides she cannot win against Reynaud’s plotting against her and decides to move on. Through a series of events Vianne ultimately determines to stay. It is from these events we can identify some signs to look for when wrestling with whether to stay or leave.
Why She Decided To Stay
Rarely is there a lone factor that determines whether we stay or leave a situation. With Vianne it was a combination of realizations.
- She has a circle of close friends. Though small, Vianne’s circle of friends provide support and encourage her to stay through word and deed.
- She makes a difference in people’s lives. Vianne is shown how she has profoundly impacted lives, specifically, saving a woman from an abusive relationship and helping her find purpose, restoring the relationship of a grandmother and grandson, and reconciling a mother and daughter.
- Her gifts are recognized. Vianne is allowed to help plan and provide chocolate for the town’s most significant occasion, the Easter Festival.
- Her daughter doesn’t want to go. Anouk, now attached to the town, refuses to go when Vianne wants to leave.
- People in leadership acknowledge her. The town’s young priest references Vianne’s influence in an inspiring Easter Sermon, and the mayor apologizes and embraces her after she helps him save face in an incriminating situation.
- She lets go of the past. Vianne’s mother’s urn of ashes is accidently broken and her ashes are scattered on the floor. The north wind returns, but this time Vianne throws her mother’s ashes out into the wind, symbolizing her life path finally diverging from her late mother’s.
What We Can Learn
When contemplating whether to stay or to leave a situation ask the following questions:
- Do I have close friends who support me? Are they encouraging me to stay or leave?
- Can I identify lives that have been changed because of my influence?
- Are my skills and gifts being acknowledged and maximized?
- What does my family think?
- Am I valued and affirmed by other leaders?
- Is it my own baggage that is prompting me to leave?
These are just a sampling of the questions that need to be asked, but as in Vianne’s situation, they may prove pivotal in determining whether you stay or leave a situation.
Posted on May 10, 2022