Leaning Forward in the Fox Hole

I was paid a compliment recently when a client said I was, “leaning forward in the foxhole.” It is soldier speak for one who is proactive, takes initiative, and gets things done. My client is ex-Army and my company is working with his to get out in front of some of their issues.

The soldier leaning forward is self-motivated and not sitting around waiting for every little detail of guidance. He is engaged, alert, and actively looking to participate in the main effort. He is looking to do his part. This type of posture reveals volumes about one’s motivation, priorities, and teamwork.

“Lean in” became a business motto in 2013. Since then I have seen articles and books to ‘lean in’ to innovation, retirement, a balanced life, among many others. The expression was taken from the title of the book, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead” written by Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. The book outlines business strategies to help women achieve success. The title paints a picture of what Sandberg believes women need to do to move up in the business world: to physically lean in to make herself heard.

I was kayaking last Sunday, while building this blog in my head. For comfort I had set my seat such that I could lean back, but I found that my arms were getting tired. Sitting erect and leaning forward created a better power source that included my back muscles. Think about when walking into a stiff wind, we lean into it for stability and power, same with facing an ocean wave.

A coaching term similar to ‘leaning forward’ is ‘athletic position.’ I used this expression in every sport I coached – football, basketball, soccer – but most often with the 10-year-old girls soccer team. “Shoulders over knees, knees over toes” as opposed to head back, looking at the clouds, with a hand on the hip, and slouched posture.

Our position at the very moment action starts can be critical, it matters. The instant it takes to lean forward or get in an athletic position could be the difference between success and failure in a fast-paced environment. A lot of life happens in the blink of an eye. These stances are also called ‘ready positions,’ the starting points for life’s movements and the ability to change direction or adapt.

Ready positions require preparation and being proactive. They require discipline and they must be intentional as they just don’t happen naturally. I was reading an article on the 13th Civil Support Team, a joint effort by the Army and Air National Guards of Rhode Island. On the coldest day of the year, in sub-freezing temperatures with howling winds, they were dressed in HAZMAT suits performing a training exercise to prepare against chemical and biological warfare. When asked about the drill, a 20-year veteran of the team said, “We’re doing what we do every month. We’re leaning forward in the foxhole.” They were training for excellence.

This mindset carries beyond a military career and into everyday life. A 57-year-old former Special Forces officer with the U.S. Army was diagnosed with a rare cancer. His response to the diagnosis was, “Cancer is an enemy that I don’t know anything about, I don’t know its tactics or its capabilities. It scares the hell out of me. So, I’m learning about it and assaulting it with everything I have. I don’t win by sitting back. I’ve always been a leaning-forward-in-the-foxhole-kind-of-a-guy. That isn’t changing.”

As Christian soldiers and competitors, we need to lean forward in our foxholes and be in an athletic position. Be ready to act on God’s plan. Leaning forward is getting up early to pray, being prepared in our heart to share time, talent, and treasure as needed. We should not wait to be asked to volunteer or for an invitation to the next church event or bible study.

In business, I use a technique called AOA to be in a ready position before a critical meeting, presentation, or customer visit. AOA stands for Ask, Offer, Accept. Prior to starting the meeting or walking in to see the customer, I take a moment and do my AOA. I ask for God’s presence and strength to be with me during this time; I offer the event up in His honor and for His glory; finally I agree to accept the outcome as part of His plan – win or lose. I become more relaxed, confident, and ready to start.

The call to lean forward in the Bible is referred to as “stand firm” or “be on guard.”  It is stated many times, most often by Paul in his letters. The emphasis is to create readiness. It is imperative that we are ready to serve, to answer, to fight and eventually meet our maker. Paul desires that the early church’s readiness for combat, be against the spiritual powers of evil. He places distinct importance on prayer.

In Ephesians 6:11-18, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.  For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground. So stand fast with your loins girded in truth, clothed with righteousness as a breastplate, and your feet shod in readiness for the gospel of peace. In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all [the] flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for all the holy ones.”

In 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, “Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong. Your every act should be done with love.”

The scripture passage in the gospel of Mark (13:32-37) stresses staying alert and the need for watchfulness – “But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’”

Leaning forward in the foxhole is a very appropriate command for each of us as we live our daily lives. Lean forward and engage apathy, injustice, hopelessness, hostility, envy, or whatever is challenging our spiritual walk. Lean forward and live our lives in readiness. An outcome of readiness is peace and with peace, comes joy.


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