Tonight I had an opportunity to share the gospel, and I failed.
But before that, I went to class tonight thinking that I was being filled with a little bit of discernment. We had a discussion about what to do when a student comes to you at school and tells you their friend has dipped into depression and is physically harming herself. I thought I immediately knew what I would do, and that that was the right answer. I would keep talking to the depressed student on my own instead of sending her to the inefficient programs the school had. I would eventually recommend her to guidance and clinical help, including her parents if necessary. But I did not say any of this out loud, because it seemed to me that the discussion was more of a knowledge-fest than something legitimately helpful. To me, it seemed like everyone just had to chime in with their ten cents worth and offer some more suggestions to the pot. The conversation was vivacious and passionate, but I said nothing because to me it appeared that I did not need to say anything. These colleagues of mine would have their opinions and I would have mine, but I knew what I would do and so what point would there be in joining the discussion of people who wanted to look like they really cared about students with abuse problems. Some of them genuinely do care, if not all, yet why do we have to go around trying so hard to appear that way? If we dp care, then why do we need to advertise it?
Analyzing all of this in my head, I stayed quiet. But somewhere deeper in my mind was the unconscious thought that yes, I was better than these people because of my humility. I was the humble one, not adding to the collection of do-gooders, because I knew what I would truly do in that situation. But eventually, for the sake of community involvedness, I made a small comment about calling the parents into the situation if worst came to worst. And then one of the experienced teachers in our group pointed out, slightly sharp, that I was mistaken:
“Actually, you could get in a lot of trouble for doing that. There will be so much red tape, its best not to get involved in all of the heat. Your move should be to ask guidance to make the phonecall, and for you to stay out of it.”
Ah, the sting of pride. I was softly set back in my place, and everyone else seemed to agree with this person, nodding their heads and chiming in how awful red tape can be. This was the true lesson in humilty. Perhaps I was so focused on being wise and a true use to the others in the group that I neglected to remember the gospel: God died for me, an imperfect man.
And then yet, maybe he did use me in the group. Maybe he was using me to show others what it is like to take the small sting of public correction and to not be humiliated. Granted, this wasn’t that big of a deal. But oftentimes I am guilty of thinking that I am of use to God based on what he has taught me in the past. Its true that I am, but I often get this confused with the work that I have put into it all. None of my effort makes me of any use to God. Only his redemptive work and ability to pick us up when we are falling down makes us of use to him.
This was a good reminder.
Then later, a girl in my class asked me what the bracelet on my hand meant and where it came from. This is my gospel bracelet, which I started wearing for this exact sort of situation. She took the bracelet in her hands and rolled it around. It has bible verses printed all over it. So I sort of gently snatched my wrist away from her hand, and hid my braclet behind my back. Ten minutes after that, we were talking out in the field near our cars. She mentioned something about 1. the necessity of being plugged in to a community of like minded individuals (she was speaking of an art conference she went to recently) and 2. how after the typcial long day at school, she feels very empty and needs someone (a friend/ lover) or something (yoga/alcohol) to refresh her and to fill her back up.
…! Argh, it makes me so angry that I said nothing. What my friend was describing was the emptiness of sin. What she was describing was the hole in our hearts that we all long to be filled. I knew, even in the moment, that she needed the Lord and that no other method would satisfy her longing. I am very happy that she was being as honest as she was and admitting weakness in front of me (perhaps there is some truth in vulnerability), but she was needing to be poured into by something or someone. I’m not sure what she went home to choose, but I’m sure it wasn’t the LORD.
How do we become unashamed of the gospel? How do we become so bold as to lose self-awareness and then take huge social risks in sharing something very personal yet very universal: Christ.
Oh wait, I do know the answer: Prayer.