Our high school vice principal used a new and strange language.
During my high school years we students enjoyed a friendship with an older but amiable vice principal who would go out of his way to be friendly and accommodating to the kids at the school. I’ll call him Mr. Miller, and he was a hard-working gray-haired gentleman who would be seen chatting with seniors in the hallway between classes, football players at lunch or maybe some stray students doing some extra homework in the library during study hall. We all liked him, and it was obvious that he was comfortable being around us.
Mr. Miller was always looking for ways to improve himself, and on one occasion during my years at Delmar, Delaware High School he went to a teachers/administrators convention for further career training.
And something at that conference changed him. We noticed it almost the minute he got back.
We students suspected that Mr. Miller must have attended a workshop on communication with pupils. We guess that they might have emphasized the need to be aware of the jargon of the student body, to be able to talk on the level of the teenager.
Well, Mr. Miller took this advice as seriously as anyone we had ever seen. Perhaps too much, I’m afraid.
I recall the day when we freshmen were walking by him in the hallway on the way to our first period class, nodding to him and greeting him.
“Hey, Mr. Miller.”
“Good morning, Mr. Miller. What’s up?”
“How you doin’, Mr. Miller?”
He grinned ear to ear and said, “I’m feelin’ groovy, baby. What’s going down with you?”
We did a double-take. I think Shawn did a triple-take.
Cindy recovered enough to return the smile and respond: “Oh, it was a good weekend. We won the football game Friday night. Did you go to the game?”
He shook his head. “Naw, naw, couldn’t make that scene, baby.”
I don’t recall anybody laughing about it – seriously, I do not remember anybody making him the butt of any jokes – but we were openly bewildered. He had changed his vocabulary completely, and it didn’t have the effect that he intended. While we did enjoy a good friendship with him right up to our high school graduation, we often felt uneasy with any deep conversation. This man who was old enough to be our grandfather would use terms that we felt that even we had outgrown.
“Hey, Zockoll, what’s shakin’ today in your scene, man?”
“Whoa, Stevens, that’s downright groovy, baby.”
He was especially in love with the word “baby,” which made me cringe. It just wasn’t … well, it wasn’t him. Many students would seek out other counselors or instructors when they wanted advice. Mr. Miller was trying to be part of our world – and that was okay by me, really – but his lack of understanding was almost embarrassing to us.
My point is that Mr. Matthew was approaching us from his world and his lack of understanding placed some severe limitations on his reach.
That memory hits me square in the chest when I realize that a lot of my frustration in my walk with Jesus is based on that same limitation. When I try to force my way of thinking and my limited reasoning into the magnificence of God, I often fall flat on my face. What I mean is, I will hit the wall of doubt when I start putting the reasoning and righteousness of Jesus on my level within the scope of my intellect, instead of allowing Him to teach me. When I slow down my reading of the sacred Scripture and content myself with snippets of the Bible (which might even be out of context) I place myself in the danger of what I call “Hallmark greeting card education;” you know, where you only see one pretty verse that makes you smile and nod but really has no depth. When I start with the “well, if I were God, this is the way I would act” type of thought process, I only serve to attempt a line of reasoning that will end up fruitless.
I need to fully submit to Jesus. I need to shut up and listen. I need to continue to learn.
John the Baptist’s followers ran to him. “John,” said his loyal disciples, “that one (they don’t even use the name Jesus, their jealousy is so strong) is preaching and baptizing and is moving in on our territory. Should you do something about it?”
John nodded. “Yes, I’m going to decrease and let Him increase.” His further teaching is magnificent. “We’re looking at the Messiah and the coming kingdom as people of the Earth, and that’s a limited viewpoint. Our vision is through very dirty and weak glasses. He, however, is from above – Heaven, you understand – and His ministry is above and beyond our limited thinking and observation.”
John did just what he said he was going to do. He, with all of his thousands of followers, scaled back his life and directed the attention to Jesus the Christ. He didn't fully understand the universal effect Christ would have, but in humility he backed up and diminished any chance that people would see him in front of Him.
That’s the right direction to point. That’s the right language to speak. That’s the right perception that is increasing my joy of Christ; letting Him dominate and direct my personal walk and my public ministry. Ah, it’s been good and it’s getting better.
I am reminded of the time – back when I taught middle school – of when I took my fourth and fifth grade class boys to the San Benito Country Fair and we took a stroll through the Midway. The little guys had pockets fill of loose change and were spending coins here and there on such rip-off amusements like the Dime Toss, the Ring Throw, and the Softball in the Basket. They lost dimes by the dozen, but they did walk away with paper fans, plastic whistles and flimsy straw hats.
I can recall piling the young fellows into the van for the way back to school when little Bryan, looking down at his plastic ring, USA mini-sticker and bouncy ball blurted out:
“Lookit all we got! Boy, I bet they’re glad to see us go!”
The other boys nodded. I tried not to laugh. We all have our own perspective, don’t we?
I don’t want a County Fair perspective of Jesus. I don’t want to think that He is overwhelmed by my presence. I want to sit back and let Him teach, counsel, enjoy and love me.
I like this. It’s growth. It’s deep. And it’s fun.