Bring a substitute teacher in any middle school class in the public schools is an adventure. The English class where I was recently subbing was scheduled to spend the last period of the day in the library researching, checking out books and reading.
I was thrilled because the responsibility to wrestle with rebellious teenagers to maintain order in the classroom, during what is often the most difficult period of the day to do so, would pass from me to the librarian. I had had these same kids already for Social Studies the previous period, and, here at the end of a long day, I definitely was ready for a break. They went on ahead to the library while I finished up in class and followed a few minutes later.
When I got there I wondered where my students had gone. My first thought was that they had taken advantage of a sub and skipped out. The class that was there was quietly seated in their seats, listening silently as the librarian explained what they would be doing and how they were to do it.
These students bore absolutely no resemblance to the students that had just left my classroom ten minutes earlier. When the librarian, a 60ish, rather small woman, addressed the class, she spoke with a calm, soft voice that she never raised as she spoke to the whole class for about fifteen minutes. The children sat quietly and attentively as she gave them instructions on their activities for the day. Several times one of them would whisper to the adjacent child. The librarian would stop talking, and in her normal, loving but firm voice, call him or her by name, and tell them to be quiet—which they would promptly and invariably do.
I was mesmerized. I watched her as the students eventually moved about the classroom, going about their assignment, showing no signs of their restlessness during the previous period. The librarian was helpful, smiling, engaged and obviously loving the kids with a love they all unconsciously could not help but feel, and which I, consciously, could not help but see.
When the class was over, I waited until she finished her wrap-up, after-school tasks—checking out books, talking to students, etc. When she was finally alone, I introduced myself.
I told her I was the sub for the previous class, and I felt like I had been in a time warp in her library. I had been transported emotionally back to the 1950’s when I had been in middle school myself (junior high then). I told her that I saw the same discipline, firmness, and love for the students in her library that I saw from my teachers in my middle school, and that she got the same response from the children today that my teachers experienced 60 years ago—yielding willingly to the authority of a teacher who loved them.
As I watched the librarian at work that day, I realized she is a beautiful example of what we have discussed in these blog postings: God the Holy Spirit living in human flesh, our heritage as man, participants with Daddy in the family business. She is a carrier, a transporter, a transparent vessel for the divine life of God as it spreads the benevolent rule of Jesus Christ over the whole earth.
She reacted to my observations of her in her workplace exactly as I expected she would:
“Who, me?” Her response was first surprise, even shock, and then joy! She didn’t have a clue. She was involved unconsciously in the ministry of life that was a river of living water flowing out to her students, a ministry that can’t be organized or planned. Ministry that can be controlled and orchestrated is often information transfer only—good, important, even necessary information—but not necessarily life-giving ministry.
On the other hand, rivers of life appear naturally, spontaneously, and, as in this case, even unconsciously. The river cannot be scheduled or anticipated, and when it comes, we are sometimes initially unaware that it has indeed arrived on site and is watering us.
I have recently, apart from the librarian you just met, been ministered to personally, or as a result of observing:
a barber cutting hair, with a kind word and a warm welcome to all who climb up into his chair;
a health-insurance salesman bringing knowledge, wisdom, comfort, and compassion to his elderly clients;
a chiropractor adjusting and working on the spines of his hurting patients in a clinic that inundates them with love and care when they walk in the door;
a championship-winning basketball coach giving her life to her players by demanding their best performance and helping them give it while loving them with all her heart;
an owner-CEO of a large corporation, loved by all his employees, who runs his business with fairness, integrity and compassion, based on biblical law, the same law upon which our country was founded;
an architectural firm, owned and operated by a husband and wife who carefully and individually walk every client all the way through the pressure of the planning, design and construction of their life-long dream, making sure they understand everything that lies ahead so there will be no hidden surprises;
another husband and wife who have given their lives to their vision of not only educating their own children but now teaching other parents, literally around the world, how to successfully do likewise;
the co-founder of a custom, vintage clothing company that designs quality sweaters, jackets, shoes, and boots, new items stylishly designed like those from a previous era, self-consciously emphasizing integrity, honesty, and service to his customers.
Notice that each of these life-carriers is in a position of authority over others. They are flesh and blood examples of, and give definition to, what “ruling in God’s kingdom” looks like. This delegated rule flows from the throne of God by His Holy Spirit through us, and it always looks the same.
Whether the rule is over those in a barber chair, a basketball team or a large corporation, it is always characterized by firmness, wisdom, decisiveness, compassion and laying down our lives in service for those over whom we rule—God’s answer to the prayer He asked us to pray, “Thy kingdom come Thy will be done, on the earth as it is in heaven.”
However, there is absolutely nothing we earnest, sincere, committed Christians can do from our positions of authority to assure we rule in this way, the kingdom way. The librarian didn’t have a clue or was she trying to do anything “spiritual.” Ironically, when we give up trying to be “kingdom rulers,” and just believe Daddy when He says it already is happening, the fun begins! That is called “living by faith,” faith that it IS true, regardless of how we feel or what we see!
Next week we will discuss the implications of the church beginning to believe this.