by Clark Roush, Ph.D.
As Division chair for the Arts & Humanities at my college, I have fairly frequent visits with the Academic Dean. This morning, I was on my way out of the building where he offices, and I had the most wonderful, random, and “AHA” encounter with a complete stranger. I think it may very well have been a Spirit-moment!
Allow me to briefly set the scene for you: my campus is currently having its annual summer week-long spiritual rally entitled “SoulQuest.” Hundreds of people come from all over the U.S. to attend. Some of the teachers, staff, youth ministers, etc… bring their families, and some of their children are not yet “camp” age, but are old enough to be on their own and about campus.
On my way from the Dean’s office to my office, I briefly crossed paths with a child who was too young to be a “camper,” but was on campus with his family. I said, “hey bud,” and he responded back, “hey.” Next I said, “how’s it going for you today?” The young man stopped, looked at me, thought for a second or two, and then said, “I’m lost – can you help me?!”
I said, “Sure, I’ll be happy to – where you headed?” He replied back, “the boy’s dorm.” I showed him the sidewalk to take that would lead him by one building and directly to the dorm he was looking for. As he began his journey, with renewed vigor and confidence, he turned around and said, “hey mister, thanks!” I answered, “No problem, happy to be able to serve you, young man.”
He was just SO open, honest, and transparent with a complete stranger, that when I returned to my office I couldn’t help but think about what just happened and what some of the applications could be.
Do you remember those times when you were younger where it was ok to just say, “I’m lost?!” There was no image to uphold, no shame, no fear, just an honest self-awareness and assessment. I fear “becoming adult” makes us lose that. After all, we have so much to lose, right? Our image, reputation, influence, etc…. We have all become so “grown up,” haven’t we? And we have brought our defenses, shields, denial, and dysfunction into our selves, our homes, our jobs, and our churches.
I can’t help but wonder if we wouldn’t be better off if we could keep some of the openness and lack of shame a child has. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the times we feel spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically, or professionally “out of whack” we could just admit with no shame or consequences – “I’m lost!” We often just keep wandering, hoping someone won’t realize how scared or clueless we are. We’re fearful of being “found out” and we often aimlessly meander trying to find our own way through the maze of life.
Part of my thoughts today were a recommitment to transparency in my life. Do I have the courage to just be honest with people? Can I ask for help when I know I need it without fear of “losing face” with people? How can I encourage more of that among God’s people?
Additional mental gymnastics were applied as I realized that there was something about me that made the young man believe I could help him and that I would help him. I appeared as someone that would help him out of his current situation. This made my wonder – is my spiritual life such that others believe I might be able to help them when they feel “lost.” When life has caused someone to lose their bearings, is there something about the way I live that makes them believe I can help them “find their way?” Am I surrounding myself with others who I recognize can help me when I feel that way?
Is it possible that when those “in the world” look at believers, they don’t really believe that we are people who can help them, or that we would want to? How does one distinguish what that would look like? I’m still giving that cerebral gestation, but I’m grateful that a child reminded me of the necessity of transparency, and I believe I’ll be better this week as I ponder ways I can better reflect Jesus. After all, he had people flocking to Him – isn’t that what believers should want as well? It is FAR too easy to live our lives feeling superior to those who have “lost their way,” and like the Pharisee, thank God that we are not like them. And then we wonder why they don’t want what we have!
Thank you, Jesus, for the nudge you lovingly provided today!