Once again a sense of humor and a handy camera capture a fun image. We were on this Caribbean cruise, and walking a beach I happened to see the juxtaposition of our ship and that one lifeguard. Click.

Yeah…see, this one guy is responsible for everyone on that ship. I hope he’s paying attention. And not just watching the movie on the giant screen on the top deck. He’s got a lot of souls to keep safe.DSC02755.JPG

It’s a matter of trust. Can you imagine his interview for the job? You’ve got your lifesaving certification, right? Yep. And some experience? Check. We need you to sit up there in that chair and be ready to spring into action if the need arises. Right. One more thing. We’re not just talking about a few swimmers in the water. Oh? No, we’re asking you to watch a ship and be responsible for, maybe, 4500 souls aboard. Oh.

So there he sits. And there’s the ship. Good luck.

I wonder when I might have been entrusted with far more than I was able/willing/prepared to deal with. Now that I think about it: over and over. My family. The teens at the youth center. The churches I served. The committees I chaired.

So, three in my family. Maybe a hundred at the youth center. Largest church? Maybe 600. The committees? Well, it wasn’t just the people around the table but the hundreds, maybe thousands, whose lives may (or may not, truth be told) have been affected by the work we tried to accomplish.

And then there was the radio thing. {For over 20 years I produced and hosted a syndicated radio program called “Celebration Rock.”} I can acknowledge that many listeners were indifferent to the broadcasts I produced and hosted. But others trusted my voice. My thoughts, my words, my ideas, my (gulp) theology. I can’t count the hours, the cities, the reach of the stations…but there must have been a lot of people out there who trusted me to be honest, thoughtful, maybe even prayerful in the message, the gospel, I proclaimed.

In the early days of my ministry, my wife Joan noted that my youth center persona was quite different from my “at home” presence. (And it wasn’t just the odor of the teens’ cigarettes that hung on my clothes when I got back to our smoke-free home.) Did I have to be more “cool” or “hardened” with those teenagers, or what? I don’t think I was trying to be less than genuine, less than sincerely “me” at the center. Both there  and at home, I wanted to be fully trusted. But maybe in different ways?

And on the radio? I listen to my earliest rock DJ voice and I know it wasn’t the real me. I was an actor. When it came to the music, I was trying to sound “with it.” When it came to the religious content, what I hear now in those early tapes is fairly judgmental. Yikes. Yet, over the years, on air I became more “myself,” and for better or worse, the person the listener heard was me. Trust me.

Back to church, for a moment. I remember a favorite sermon of mine where I framed the Christmas story in a conversation with a friend as we hiked part of the Appalachian Trail. I combined a real hike, you see, with a made-up conversation and came up with a story-sermon that I thought was creative, even entertaining, and still spiritually uplifting. As the service came to an end, a teenager asked me some details about the whole experience, and I admitted that I had made it up. For the sake of the sermon. To be creative. And Ann’s response was, “Well, how will I ever know when to trust you again?” That was a wake-up call to a youngish minister in his first pastoral work.

I look again at the guy in the lifeguard chair, and I realize he isn’t even looking at the ship. Hey!

I’ll close by paraphrasing that main thrust of the Christian message about loving God, neighbor, and self. “Trust the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and strength, and trust your neighbor as you trust yourself.”

For me, the first part is easy.

 

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