Work: The ULTIMATE SWYNTS
I work in a secular institute of higher learning.
This is a BIG jump for me because for most of my 13 years of teaching I taught at small Christian schools where we had teach Bible memory verses, prayed whenever anybody felt like it, and had “chapel” on Fridays. My job was my ministry so there was none of that awkwardness that can come from trying to tell people about Jesus. It was the whole “captive audience” thing.
There were, however, times that I felt spiritually suffocated because the Bipolar pretty much assured that I would not be on the same page as most of the people I worked with… and the sexual addiction took care of all the others. I was rather happy when I quit teaching in Christian schools because I felt like I was never going to measure up. There was always the faint whiff of hypocrisy lingering in the air around me. I could smell it even if nobody else did. I always felt like a hypocrite. I used to get mad at God because what kind of “good Christian” struggled with a mental illness, anger issues, and a sexual addiction?? Nobody ever called me a hypocrite… but I always felt like on none the less. Ok, one person did ask me what kind of Christian was I? But since I thought she was a big old flaming hypocrite herself, her opinion of me didn’t really matter. It hurt, but it didn’t matter.
I figured that once I left elementary school teaching all the “Christianese” (that language that Christians seem to speak when they’re being religious) would be behind me. It would be separation of work and church all the way, baby. That was until God gave me a burden to start praying for the students. Once I started praying, he gave me a vision for a bible study. I figured I’d pray for somebody else to lead it because LORD KNOWS I didn’t feel qualified to do it. My testimony is messy and my life hasn’t been spotless. I didn’t particularly want to do it anyways… so I kept praying for someone who would. Then once that person stepped forward (one of the students) it became evident that he needed adult help. That’s how a friend from my church ended up helping me with the study. He leads it because I don’t want to. I provide the room. I chime in when I feel it’s necessary. I bring the snacks. I haven’t smelt that telltale odor of hypocrisy.
Yet I never quite say what I really need to say (SWYNTS). How can I?? It’s not like I can share my testimony of mental illness and sexual addiction with them. Try having that intel floating around campus. And since I don’t have some story of immediate deliverance from my depression or my addiction, I can’t really offer a testimony of dramatic deliverance to encourage them in their own struggles. My story minus all the salacious bits is rather… mundane. I don’t know Greek (and don’t care to); I cannot site the Four Spiritual Laws (and don’t want to); I don’t pass out tracks, get involved in religious debates about the superiority of Christianity compared to all other world religions…
I’m an educator. I put my pants on one leg at a time. I try not to yell at people when I drive my car. I get to work and I teach. I say what I’m supposed to say.
Last night I said what needed to be said. It was our weekly bible study. My co-host was out with some gnarly illness, but a friend who’d attended last week came and brought his wife. We’d talked beforehand about what we’d cover. Since it’s Good Friday/Easter, I felt like we had to talk about it and address any questions the kids might have. Attendance is sporadic at the study and I never know who’s going to show up. Last night, two young men showed up. Both are in their early 20’s and both have seen a lot of life. Both have a heart for Jesus, but not a lot of knowledge about him. One of them showed up by chance. He saw my friend bringing in his guitar and was drawn in by that. The other is a regular with a lot of zeal, but not a lot of real understanding of who Jesus is. We started with two worship songs. When I found out that the big guy played guitar I told him he’d have to play at the end.
Rather than go around the circle having people read sections, my friends and I told HIStory. Each of us took a section starting at Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. We paraphrased some parts and quoted scripture in others. We clarified what certain portions meant or anything the guys didn’t understand. One of them had no idea what Good Friday was or that Jesus had actually been crucified on Friday and not Sunday. Hearing his story told by three different people who each brought their own unique perspectives and insights really made the word come alive for them.
We told the story of Jesus as it was meant to be told: simply and relationally.
What really amazed me?? I didn’t have to feel like a hypocrite because I still have emotional baggage. It wasn’t my testimony we were sharing. We were bearing witness to what we know to be true about Jesus. We weren’t even asking them to take our word for it — we encouraged them to read it in the Bible for themselves later. All the things I have wanted to say to people about Jesus just came rolling off my tongue like I’d rehearsed it. At the end, we prayed and it was then that I noticed that the big guy was in tears. Clearly, God had prompted us to say what really needed to be said to this “accidental” attendee. After we prayed, my friend handed him his guitar and the guy blew us away.
He started playing worship songs and it was just lovely. What moved me most was when he started playing the same song that God had prompted me to sing last Sunday! I asked him if he could play it in B flat (my new-found key)… but he couldn’t. That’s when I realized that it still wasn’t about me. In my key I could have belted it out and blown them away. And I would have taken the spotlight firmly off of Jesus and put it squarely back on me. When I make it about me and what I’ve done… that odious odor starts wafting around. I stopped trying to impress and just thanked Jesus for what he was doing in that moment.
Eventually the study ended and my friends and I headed home. We fairly floated home on that cloud that usually accompanies moments like these. The cloud followed me all the way into my house only to completely evaporate in my bathroom. I looked up and there in all it’s furry legged glory was a very large fast-moving cane spider. For a moment I completely lost my cool. The cloud was gone and it was just me and the spider. Gone are the days, however, where this could evaporate my cloud for long. I grabbed the broom and a can of RAID and made short work of it. As is circled the drain and disappeared into a watery grave, I could feel my cloud re-materializing
or re-inflating… or whatever it is these clouds do. The point is… I’m still stoked about work and being free to be bold for Jesus. When I worked at the Christian school I had to talk about Jesus because it was my job. Here I don’t have to say a word about Jesus unless I choose to. I don’t try to witness to my coworkers because I don’t think God is even calling me to do that. I’m there for the students…but I don’t go all bible-banger on them either. I’ve made it known that I am a Christian; that I’m offering a bible study and bibles to anybody who’s interested; and I let God do the rest. He is bringing whomever he wants to bring and all I have to do is say what needs to be said. Pride, fear, and hypocrisy had no place there last night. That’s why I’m still floating on the cloud and haven’t caught a single whiff of hypocrisy.