By Bishop L. Jonathan Holston
“God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16 (The Message)
At the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, midshipmen must keep their rooms ready for inspection at any time and keep their uniforms in regulation condition. Demerits can be given for a room or uniform that is not in proper order.
One of the first routines of every day is formation for inspection. For my son, Karlton’s, first inspection experience, he wanted everything to be perfect. He was up early. His rack was made. His clothes were pressed. His shoes were polished so bright he was able to double-check his shave just by looking down!
He was in line. He hadn’t missed a single item. He stood perfectly at attention as the inspection was made. Karlton was confident the detailer would stop, look and he would hear the words, “Very good, plebe!”
The moment came. The detailer came face to face with this tall, well prepared young man. There was a moment of silence as the detailer took in Karlton’s presence. Karlton didn’t blink. He stood perfectly still. The detailer finally spoke.
“What’s your name, plebe?”
“Well Holston, you just earned yourself three demerits.”
Karlton was dumbfounded! He was given three demerits first thing on his first day!
Why? I’ll tell you why. Because the shoes of his roommate weren’t as brightly polished as his own.
Karlton embraced a valuable truth that day—to truly be at your best, you must also help others be their best.
One of the highest values taught in the Navy is caring for each other, looking after each other, working together. They know just taking care of oneself is not the path to maximum excellence. They needed Karlton to help others because the day would come when he would need the others to help him. This is a culture of shared support, accountability and reliance.
And so it is for the body of Christ. Paul writes that Christ keeps us in step with one another as we grow and mature in faith. We are not called to make the journey of faith alone, but rather to bring our brothers and sisters in Christ with us. God promises to provide what we need and to lead us in the right direction; all we have to do is trust and follow.
We know what is happening around us. We are here. We are not beginning again; we are continuing on. The pandemic is not over – instead it is doubling down. In the midst, how can we be the people God calls us to be?
How can we be the church where we are? How can we best protect each other and be our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper? How do we move forward together?
Richard Bolles, in the timeless leadership book, “What Color Is Your Parachute?”, describes our discerning times in this way, namely,
“It is a strange world we live in, these days. Old rules are being rewritten. Things are changing that we never thought would change. Events are happening that we thought we would never see. Things we take for granted now are vanishing. Things don’t work the way they used to.
And here we are, trying to plot a new course for our life, still needing help with the essential questions of our existence: Where do we go from here with our lives?
We may have a life that is unfolding just as we have hoped. Or our lives may have turned into a nightmare, and we have no idea how we’re going to get out of our present predicament, but so long as we have hope, we’ll be all right. The one thing we must not be is hopeless.”
So it must be hope that we seek above and before all else. The only question is, how do we find hope?
Hope is not an elusive pipe dream. Hope is available here and now, regardless of our circumstances. All we have to do is adjust our focus and perspective. Hope depends upon us. As we take our next faithful steps, hope depends on us developing leaders, engaging our communities, connecting with and growing disciples, and measuring and evaluating current realities and missional possibilities.
Being on the cutting edge of ministry and hope and living at the edge of the unknown is the key to progress. And if we’re unsure, don’t worry; that’s a good thing.
Why? Because when we recognize we cannot make it on our own, and that we are desperately in need of the Savior. It is in those moments when we learn to fully rely on Jesus Christ.
This is a time for learning, growing and shifting out of our old patterns.
May we be at our best by helping others be at their best, focusing on hope and trusting God to lead us.
Let us seek a more excellent way as we take the next faithful steps together to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.