Last Thursday evening I decided to take a stroll around campus. As I followed the sidewalk along the back of Blossom Hall, I passed a steady line of empty parked cars. Then I came to a car that was very much occupied. Its driver was waiting patiently, windows down.
We made eye contact; after all, it was only the two of us against the backdrop of an uninhabited parking lot. I wanted to say hello. Instead, I awkwardly averted my gaze and continued on my way.
For some reason, this experience affected me more than it normally would have. It began to dawn on me that people all over the world have similar experiences every day. We brush past strangers. We pretend to be too busy. We ignore.
I began to think about my time here at Malone and the realization of the calling that God has allowed me to pursue while here. And now, at the culmination of all my learning and training, I found that I was ill-equipped to offer a simple greeting to a complete stranger in what was, in actuality, a relatively safe environment.
I continued walking, the sound of my footsteps echoing off the walls of the brick dormitory, and a sobering thought crossed my mind: the person I had just blown off was a creature of the Almighty. What if I was supposed to say hello? What if, in that moment, all that person needed, sitting alone in her car, was just to be seen, recognized, acknowledged by someone?
Then God, in his mercy, decided to teach me a lesson. Immediately, I was reminded of the lyrics to a song the Chorale sings: Moses Hogan’s arrangement of “I Can Tell the World.” An up-tempo spiritual, the song has been part of our repertoire for a few years.
While it is certainly an enjoyable piece to perform, I had never given much thought to its lyrical content. Then I started singing to myself: “I can tell the world, yes, about this. I can tell the nations, yes, that I’m blessed! Tell them what my Lord has done, tell them the Conqueror has come, and he brought joy, joy, joy to my soul!”
In that moment, it was as if all of the guilt-tripping light bulbs in my mind and spirit lit up. I reflected on my life, with all its mistakes and shortcomings. But I was also reminded that I have been redeemed and drawn into communion with God. The Conqueror has indeed come, and I can see the evidence of his victory even in my own life. Jesus has brought joy to my soul.
Even in the midst of this realization, though, I was cut through with the song’s first line: “I can tell the world.” I knew that the gospel of Christ was commanded to be spread. Deep within me, I recognized that I had not been speaking up and speaking out enough. And what’s more, I had forgotten that God has equipped me to do so. I can tell the world. But I wasn’t.
The song continues: “My Lord done just what he said: he healed the sick, and he raised the dead! He lifted me when I was down; he placed my feet on solid ground!”
As a graduating senior, I look at this wonderful institution called Malone University and I see many people who are truly passionate about living out our motto: bringing “Christ’s Kingdom First.” But I also see people who may have never listened to the offer of grace, renewal, and redemption that Jesus offers.
Sometimes, the best way to tell someone about your faith isn’t through a theology textbook or a curriculum, though those are certainly beneficial tools. Some people need to see and to hear the evidence of Christ’s work in your life.
Maybe saying hello to that stranger would never have resulted in a “come-to-Jesus” discussion. But even so, simply acknowledging the presence of another human being created in the image of God is a step in the process of telling the world.
I encourage everyone to reflect on what God has done in our lives. Whether students, faculty, or staff, we live here together as a community bound by the yoke of Jesus and his saving power.
Through the grace and mercy of God, you can tell the world. The question is, will you?