Friday, May 18, 2007

Signposts on the way to God

How do we know about God's love, God's generosity, God's kindness, God's forgiveness? Through our parents, our friends, our teachers, our pastors, our spouses, our children ... they all reveal God to us. But as we come to know them, we realise that each of them can reveal only a little bit of God. God's love is greater than theirs; God's goodness is greater than theirs; God's beauty is greater than theirs.

At first we may be disappointed in these people in our lives. For a while we thought that they would be able to give us all the love, goodness, and beauty we needed. But gradually we discover that they were all signposts on the way to God.

(Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey, May 4th)
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I would rather have my teeth cleaned than go camping. It's just the way I am. My idea of roughing it is a Motel 6. I am not impressed with bugs, dirty, creepy-crawlies, or anything else about it. I love star-gazing - preferably followed by coffee and a croissant at Starbucks or Caribou or somesuch. I'm generally up for bonfires, s'mores and such - but otherwise, ugh.

I am going camping overnight next Friday and Saturday.

I had suggested to the young men of my DeMolay chapter that I would be willing to come down to Van Wert on Saturday, and help them set up a combination work/fun activity, go swimming, cook out, that sort of thing. Somehow, one guy said, "This guy has a pond in his back-40," and another said, "Are there fish? Can we go fishing?" "YEAH! Fishing!" "I've got a tent!" "Tents are for sissies!"

And so on. So I will be under the stars on Friday night, unless it rains. Then we will be elsewhere, I suppose. That's the advisor's job - to help the young men plan the contingencies, make the lists, so that the group has a good time. Equal parts mentor and border-collie, nipping at heels.

Why am I doing this? Why would any even-fractionally-sane 50-year-old outdoors-averse individual do something as stupid as forsake his warm bed for a cold field a hundred miles from home?

Because, of course...that is what a group of men did for me.

Overnighters, trips to various chapters, late night pizza, anguished phone calls in the middle of the night - my DeMolay advisors took them all from me. And over the years, the young men I advised became advisors themselves. And the good ones - the ones who saw and heard the message - did exactly the same thing.

So I will go to Van Wert, sleeping bag in hand. And I will pray, as I always do, that I will be an instrument of peace, of inspiration, and brotherhood - and not (as many advisors end up) just a blunt instrument of discipline and rules. The phrase out of our ceremonies came first from the Gospel: Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.

Amen.

1 comment:

Poor Mad Peter said...

You probably don't need to be told this, but I'll risk it anyway: you're being honoured as an Elder in this exercise. I wouldn't doubt that a number of the younger guys admire you as someone who's "been there". And come through it.