Monday, September 14, 2009

The Profundity of Simply Showing Up

A “Go with God” Moment

Let me welcome you all, whether you are a first semester freshmen or a senior…or anyone in between…to IWU. Summer is a good time to rest but the campus without you is non-functioning. It was quiet, it was empty, it was simply wrong. This is not the way IWU is meant to be. So I say, welcome back…

This is the first Monday Memo of a new school year so with it allow me to address just a few words to the incoming freshmen. For some of you, it may seem as if you have been here for a lifetime. So many new settings, hundreds (if not thousands) of new people, and if you are an introvert, there are very few places just to be alone. Each day of this last week could probably be described as “newness overload.” There are too many new places and with far too many names. There is the Phillippe Performing Arts Center but in actuality we only call it, The PPAC. We have an OLD College Church which has an alternative venue for chapel service, but it looks nothing like a church. We have a student center that looks like a Mall with its own coffee shop. We have residence halls galore (with a variety of names; have you figured out where ToHo is?) and academic buildings in every direction. You have discovered that the campus is loaded with real places with real names but often we only refer to them by acronyms or abbreviations. I apologize to you if you have been confused. I promise you that by fall break (another inaccurate term, because it’s only one day long), you will feel right at home.

Ok, so where am I going with this? Let me tell you a short story (a living parable) about what happened to me last spring. My wife Angie and I were on Sabbatical (every 7 years a professor gets a semester off to hone his/her trade of teaching). We decided to travel to three different Wesleyan Bible Colleges in Africa. At our last stop on the seven week tour, Mozambique, I was bitten by a tick and developed typhus; high fever, extreme exhaustion, and one nasty bite on the back of my leg. However, I was only going to be at this one Bible College for three weeks. During that time I was trying to teach an entire semester’s worth of work in three weeks. So, imagine if I stayed in bed for the next week (advice from the missionary). One third of the semester would have been lost. Instead, I promised my wife that if I taught for four hours a day, I would return to the mission home and rest the remainder of the day. Well, on the first day of class, I explained to the 50 young ministry students (who BTW, had traveled up to five days journey to attend this class) that I was sick but I wanted to try and teach my may through it. So I sat on a three legged stool and taught. Angie kept handing me glasses of water to keep me hydrated. It was 95 degrees with 95% humidity, and we were in a building without electricity or even a ceiling fan. I had never been so exhausted in my life after the first two hours of teaching. And in actuality, I do not remember a word that I said. But at the first morning break, one of the English speaking students came up to me and said, “Dr. Smith that was the greatest teaching I’ve ever witnessed.” His words of course got my attention, so I said (with a good bit of self-serving pride), “What was it that I said that encouraged you?” As I waiting for him to stroke my ego, he said, “Oh, it was not what you said that was impressive. It was the profound fact that you simply showed up.” He went on to explain that when most western teachers come to Mozambique, if they contract an African disease, they simply stay home. And when the teachers stay home, 50 people lives are put on hold and they miss out on all that God has for them.

Now, my new freshmen friends, may I make a simple spiritual application to you today. If you are lonely, hurting, feeling a bit overwhelmed; please simply show up. Place yourself strategically in every position to succeed. Go to every class, with work done; simply show up. Attend the activities in the dorms which will help fashion you into a community; simply show up. Give God the opportunity to pour Himself into you. I mean, really, He has brought you to a time such as this; please simply show up. Allow Him the opportunity to bring you through to the other side. 

Let me try to end this with a few “showing  up” suggestions which may help this week set a good foundation for your long-term success at IWU:

  1. Make Fall Summit a priority. Try to think of your education holistically rather than compartmentally. You grow as a person, body mind, and spirit. Classes for the most part are seen as your intellectual development. But if you have not picked up on it, we endeavor to offer you an integrated education; where we are concerned about your spiritual growth and your academic development. Set aside Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday morning and Monday and Tuesday evening for worship. BTW, Tim Elmore is one great preacher.
  2. Get to know your professors. Make certain in the first several weeks of the semester to stop by the office suite of the School of Theology and Ministry (2nd floor Christian Ministries Bldg). If you do not know him/her, introduce yourself and set up a time for coffee or even a lunch. In my educational career, the time apart with professors had an equal or greater impact on my life than the time in class.
  3. Seek out a church home. Chapel is not a church. Certainly it is a worship experience and spiritual food. But I encourage you before the semester gets too far along to find a local church to call “home.” Now, many of you will say that your church home is, well, back home. But in the ensuing semesters, you will grow academically and spiritually in ways you never imagined. And the people “back home” will not see this. They may always see you as the high school graduate who went off to IWU. I will ask you to put yourself into an accountable relationship with a multi-generational congregation with folks who can watch you, encourage you, challenge you, etc. Moreover, many of you will never return to your “home church” with any sort of regularity. So, finding a local church to worship and serve in now…will be setting an agenda for the rest of your lives.

For Summit this week, I pray that You would anoint Tim Elmore, embolden his heart, and quicken our ears.
For relationships across campus, I pray that You will bind together students and faculty into an academic and spiritually collaborative community.
May we learn from one another in the beauty of Your Spirit.
May we see the local church as Your Body;
May the Body pour into the students, and
May the presence of the students encourage the local church.

Now, Go With God.


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