If you read my first blog post, you know the story of my 9th birthday party, the girl named Renae, and one of the biggest regrets of my life. (If you haven’t read it, go ahead and do that now, if you like.) Now I’m going to fast forward about 10 years, maybe a little more, to my senior year at Luther College.
I suppose some of you reading this blog may be familiar with the Luther College campus. It’s nestled among the bluffs of Decorah, Iowa. (Coincidentally this was where my dad grew up so my college days were not my first exposure to this quaint little town.) Anyway, even if you have been on campus, you may not have stumbled upon one of its little treasures – the meditation chapel. It is a tiny little room tucked away in the northeast corner of the Center for Faith and Life (CFL). This space is little more than the size of a broom closet. At the time I frequented this chapel (about 20 years ago now), you would find in it a small bookcase, a couple of benches, a small altar and a rail at which you could kneel. I found myself going to this chapel quite often. It was where I hoped God would reveal to me how it was he wanted me to serve “the least of these”, a quest I had been on I suppose since the night of that party in 1979.
One night, as I sat silently reflecting and “listening”, I felt a stirring of thought that was simply “I want you to make sure all people know they have value.” As that thought washed over me, I ran from the chapel, finding a few friends and telling them I was going to become a pastor, so that I could use my voice to bring this message to the world, that “all people have value.” After all, isn’t that where messages such as this ought to be shared? Isn’t that the best avenue to affect change in the world? That seemed obvious enough.
And so a little more than four years after that night, I graduated from seminary and began serving a little church in upper Michigan, sharing with those wonderful folks the message that all people have value. I shared that word with those folks for three years. And then I moved, bringing the same message to a new community in southern Minnesota.
After more than a decade of preaching this message, I began to feel that I was, in a sense, running on ice. Not because of the people’s reaction to this message, because I could see they understood. No, I felt I was running on ice because I began to develop a deeper awareness of the brokenness of this world, a more poignant awareness than I’d had before. (I always thought I “understood” the true nature of humanity, but I actually gave us humans more credit than I should have.)
I started wondering if maybe the pulpit was not the best platform for me to work to affect a change in the world. I started wondering that after all those years of challenging other people to put their faith into action, if maybe it wasn’t time for me to do it myself.
You see, after the lesson I learned the night of my 9th birthday, I always figured the only way a person could provide real help to another was to actually sit down with them and join in their suffering, to find “that one” and reach out to “that one”, only “that one.” However, over the years I have come to realize that, though it might not be as glamorous or romantic, there might be more effective ways to serve than simply to seek out “that one”. Thus, my decision, and subsequent dedication, to serving God through an avenue that is not linked to a pulpit, but nevertheless still to that message that found its way into my heart that night in that little chapel at Luther College, that message that “all people have value.” Through Growing Hope I have discovered a tangible way for me to help give dignity to people who might otherwise suffer. For if they suffer, they might think they are forgotten. And, if they think they are forgotten, they might think they have no value. And, I can’t leave that message alone.
So, here I am, after 15 years in ordained ministry, now working for a non-profit land management foundation, and finding myself with a new platform to deliver that message. A platform that may just allow me to share that message with more than just “that one.” And, those who come to know this message might never hear it directly from my lips, but it’s not the messenger that’s important but the message. And, if the message is delivered to a community, it will eventually find its way into the heart of “that one.”
Thanks for reading,