The World Is Waiting
Elisha Didn’t Realize It, But He Was Ready
“So Elijah departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, while he was plowing with twelve pairs of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth, and Elijah passed over to him and threw his mantle on him.”- I Kings 19:19
When I decided to return to college, a few years ago, I was excited about getting a second chance to have a college experience. I remember walking across the grounds of BGSU and falling in love with the atmosphere of the campus. I couldn’t wait for classes to start as I envisioned rousing days sitting in class participating in deep intellectual lectures and meeting interesting students with cutting edge ideas.
What I soon learned was that college is really a microcosm of the society we live in. The beauty is that there are a variety of people with a multitude of interests and opinions. But the reality is that most of us are driven and influenced by the environments we come from and not many of us want to live on the outside. It’s sometimes scary, lonely and uncomfortable on the outside and if our foundation isn’t strong, we find ourselves running back to the familiar places. The problem is that change doesn’t come in the familiar place.
From the start of the first semester, I was referred to as the nontraditional student. And clearly I fit into just about every minority class there was- I was black, female and older than most. And though I was excited about having the “campus experience”, the environment that I was confronted with, in that early morning public speaking class, didn’t line up at all with the dreams I’d had earlier as I was greeted by the blank stares of 30 fresh-faced students.
Was I intimidated? Absolutely! Did I wonder, like they probably did, what in the world I was doing there? You bet. But I was in way too deep to turn and run away.
Our first assignment was to give a two minute speech about an artifact that represented a place of significance in our lives. I chose a small cross pendant and decided to tell the story behind the symbol that had contributed to my current status.
I wanted to share with this class how the message of the cross was a representation of the hushed prayers that my great grandparents whispered during those dark times of injustice and slavery not knowing that God had heard them and my life was the result. I wanted them to know about the meaning behind the pendant that represented the sacrifice my parents made to give my sister and me a foundation for the future as they carted us to Sunday school and church every week. And most of all I wanted to tell them that God is real and alive and still relevant today.
When it was my turn to give the topic for my speech, the professor called me to her desk after class and politely encouraged me to “choose something else. I’m afraid the topic will be too polarizing,” she suggested. But I explained that the cross was the reason that I was here in the first place. And its message both connected me to those who went before me and gave me the courage to impact those who would come after me. I shared with her that the cross, in fact, represented an integral part of my journey and was the foundation for my life. I had to talk about it.
She smiled at me awkwardly and reluctantly agreed.
Nevertheless Not My Will…
On the day of the speech, I was super nervous. Did I make the right decision? How would they react? After all, I had to spend the rest of the semester in this class. How would my classmates see me from this point on? Would they think I was some weird Christian? Would my insistence to talk about the cross affect my grade? What about my image? All of these thoughts swirled around in my mind, but I was in too deep now. I had to go through with it.
I’d practiced every point I needed to make in order to fulfill the assignment and I was as ready as I was ever going to get as I stood in front of that room full of young adults that I barely knew. The room was silent and all eyes were on me as I fidgeted with the index cards that were jumbled inside of my sweaty hands and talked about my faith and the cross.
My words were awkward and my delivery left much to be desired and when I finished and looked at the faces of those clapping classmates, I breathed a sigh of relief. The heavens didn’t open up and I didn’t hear any angels singing, but some of the students came up to me after class and told me how much they enjoyed my speech. And once again, the professor called me to her desk only this time she offered me a warm smile and a whispered, “Well done.”
That day, I turned a corner in my faith and I learned that God’s choice to use me really had little to do with my ability, only my willingness to be used.
Sometimes We Forget
I love the story of Esther. It’s a rags to riches story and every little girl’s dream to be rescued by a prince, put in a palace and live happily ever after. After she married the king, Esther’s life changed. She now held a place of position and power that overshadowed where she came from and what God had done for her.
Her allegiance was now to the laws and ordinances of the king, but although Esther’s status had changed, her identity had not.
When the Jews were in danger, Mordecai had to help Esther remember who she was and why she was positioned inside of the palace in the first place when he told her, “Don’t imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish. But who knows whether you have been given this favor for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14
It isn’t always easy being the strange one or the one who stands out, but this is the mantle that God has entrusted to us. And the payoff for our obedience is a soul or a life. Wherever we find our position to be goes beyond our jobs, and our images. We have to remember that we are God’s chosen people. We are planters and waterers and encouragers, but it’s God-not us- who brings the increase. I Corinthians 3:6-8
God wants us to believe Him and obey Him even when it seems like more than the world against us. He has given us access to every help in heaven to do what He asks us to do. And when He is lifted up, He is the one who draws all men to Him.
That semester I gave two more speeches: The second was about college students of all races who participated in the Freedom Rides of 1961 and the third was on the importance of finishing college. And by the end of that term, I had developed a rapport with many of the younger students. We helped one another get through: They taught me how to use social media and how to lighten up a bit, and I gave them little nuggets of advice about life and tips on how to slow down and enjoy this college experience.
And for the remainder of my time at BGSU, I would periodically see some of them between classes and get big hugs and huge smiles as they shared their progress with me.
It’s funny how we find ourselves tucked into places that, on the surface, don’t feel receptive or comfortable, but I’m learning that my command is to bring God’s kingdom to the places where I am. And even though I was initially in an awkward, uncomfortable place, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Walk it out!
Father thank you for trusting us with Your plan. Help us to be Your heart and hands in the earth. Help us to remember who we are and what we are called to do in this place. Help us to be bold and fearless so that Your plan will succeed. We love you. In Jesus' name. Amen