November 11, 2022

The Gift Without Strings

Jill Morikone

Leadership is not for the faint of heart. There are decisions to be made—some require courage, while others are deeply unpopular. Sometimes God asks me to extend mercy when all I want is vengeance. Other times I’m supposed to hold a certain line when everything inside wants to crumble. As someone with people-pleasing tendencies, this journey has stretched and strengthened me in ways I hadn’t foreseen. 

Decisions need to be made for the betterment of the ministry, not for what feels good to me. This means we move forward based on principle, with integrity and kindness, regardless of personal desire. For a woman who doesn’t like others to be upset with her, the learning curve felt like a battering ram instead of a climb up a flight of stairs. Throughout the years, callouses began to form as protection from being hurt again.

Leadership is lonely. I remember attending an Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) convention soon after Greg and I had been promoted at 3ABN, when a church leader I respected walked up to Greg and me, extended his hand, and said, “Congratulations on your new positions. I’m sorry. You’ll find leadership is lonely.” I smiled and nodded, but I didn’t comprehend his words in the slightest. Didn’t we have the opportunity to make a difference? To spread the gospel? 

As the years passed, reality set in, and I realized he was right. Whom do you trust? I discovered more hidden agendas than seemed possible. For someone who always thought the best of others, I was in for a rude awakening. When someone was nice, I discovered it often meant they wanted something my position could offer. Gradually, cynicism began to take root in my heart. People aren’t interested in me for me; they just want something I can give them. I began to close up and hold others at a distance. It was safer this way.

I don’t know how long this would have continued if something hadn’t occurred to open my heart again. One night, Greg stopped at work and discovered a package lying outside my office door. It was a birthday package for me from a couple in church whom I rarely saw anymore. Years before, I had taught their daughter piano lessons. The mom had a knack for gift giving, always somehow finding the perfect gift. I sat on the living room floor, surrounded by colored tissue paper as I unwrapped my gift. The card had a sticker that simply said, “You are loved.” As the tears rolled down my cheeks I thought of this couple. They were quiet and unassuming. They had never sought to impress me or gain any favor. They had never changed. 

For someone accustomed to ulterior motives, this gift and its simplicity somehow restored my faith in the goodness of others. Just because a few people manipulate, it doesn’t mean that’s the majority. A few bad apples shouldn’t sour my perception of life or of others. Just because you’ve been hurt, it doesn’t mean you still can’t love or trust again.

Am I more cautious? Certainly. 

Have I discovered beautiful people whom I can trust? Most definitely. 

So, I’m seeking to follow in the footsteps of my Master: to lead with kindness and compassion, based on principle. And to trust the rest to Him.

Jill Morikone is vice president and chief operations officer for Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.