Last week, I was invited to join a dozen others and serve as a judge at a Middle School Science Fair.
It's been years since I walked the hallways of a middle school and I admit to a slight case of nervousness.
I'm not sure what I expected or why it made me nervous, but my fears were completely unjustified. Entering the school, I encountered pleasant, polite young people. Young people who wanted approval and recognition for the work they had done. Sure, there were a few who had just slapped their project together at the last minute. Times haven't changed that much from when you and I were in school, but most of them had put in honest time and effort and just wanted someone to notice. I learned more from that day in school than I have in a long time.
Yesterday, I sat in an intersection observing a couple motorists engage in a horn honking contest. We have all been privileged to attend those concerts and most of us have performed in them ourselves. This one was different.
In this one, the primary offender recognized that the person he was honking at had in fact stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the street. Realizing his mistake, he did the only thing possible. Since you cannot take back a blast from the horn, he covered his face with his hands, indicating embarrassment, then meekly waved, using all five fingers. It was nice to see his penitent spirit and sign language apology.
Two weeks ago, I was on a flight into Kelowna and was seated immediately behind a family from Australia arriving for a ski vacation. I asked the teenage boy if he had skied at Big White before. He said, "I have never even seen snow before." He and his brother kept their noses to the airplane window the entire flight, oohing and awing over every mountain vista. At first, their excitement was entertaining, but after a while it became convicting. When exactly was it that I lost my "sense of awe" at what we have in this Valley?
The connection between these experiences is not obvious at first glance. They appear to be random, unrelated happenings. Upon reflection, however, they converge to deliver a valuable lesson. Together they remind me that things are not always what they appear to be on the surface: teenagers are not scary; horn honkers are not all jerks; and the beauty of the Okanagan is not just for tourists. There is much to see and learn if I have the eyes and attitude for it.
In the Old Testament book of
2 Kings a situation occurred that has often challenged me. Elisha and his servant were surrounded by enemy soldiers and the servant was terrified at the prospect of what was about to happen. Elisha then prayed this simple prayer for his servant.
He said, "Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see." God answered Elisha's prayer and the servant saw another reality. He saw the power of God available to deliver them.
The experiences of the last couple weeks have had me praying the same prayer for myself. Lord, open my eyes. I have such a tendency to draw conclusions from a first glance. I so quickly write people off or stereotype them to fit my preconceived categories.
I need better vision. I need my eyes opened to see a bigger reality.
I need to learn to see life through the eyes of teenagers, tourists and embarrassed horn honkers. Most of all, I need to learn to see it through the eyes of God.
- Tim Schroeder is a pastor at Trinity Baptist Church; National Pastor with The Leadership Centre/Willow Creek Canada and Chaplain to the Kelowna Rockets.