We were finishing class today, and I had just asked my friend Caroline––skyping in from a patio in the shadow of the great Table Mountain in Cape Town––what advice she would give to my classroom full of students going into the world with the issues of poverty and the church on their minds and hearts.
I was sitting in the front of the classroom which I suddenly regretted as these words came out of her mouth.
“Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”
She went on to elaborate, and my mind floated back to my days in Cape Town last spring almost a year ago. I was in the middle of major transitions where the issues of poverty and the church were becoming issues that meant a world of difference when it came to my job, my income, my church, and my future. I remember sitting, clinging to the future as we now refer to it, scared of what the future held, but knowing there was nowhere to go but into the issues of what it means for the church and its people to worry less about success and more about obedience.
Caroline went on to say to the students, with me sitting in the front of the classroom, “Never give up. You will follow Christ in pursuit of the kingdom, and you will struggle. And you will feel like you are the only one. And you will feel as though you have been beating a drum for a very long time all by yourself and no one is listening, and no one else is beating that kingdom drum…”
Sitting in the front of the classroom, where the students can see me but Caroline cannot, I feel my eyes beginning to well with tears.
“…but you are not the only one beating that drum. And there are others, too, following Christ not into success but into obedience, into the kingdom, who feel as though they are the only ones being champions of justice, and they need to find you as well. Never give up. Never give up. Never give up.”
My intentions had been for our class to pray for Caroline before we ended the Skype call, but we were not able to.
I caught myself trying to say, “Caroline is a dear friend who has taught me much. And she and other very dear friends have reminded me in times that felt quite lonely that it is worth speaking out for justice and working toward the kingdom…” But that is where the thank you had to end, because my eyes were getting thick with tears at the wrong time.
Another friend spoke today at the community-wide Holy Week noon service. “The time is now,” he said, “to worry less about seeking our own success, and more about seeking the kingdom.”
He also reminds me that I am not drumming alone.
I had a conversation tonight with an elderly gentleman about our small house church joining their older congregation in serving the homeless this summer. He reminded me that I am not drumming alone.
A dear friend once grabbed my shoulder at a time when I needed it more than anything else, he looked me in the eyes, and he said, “You are not alone. There are many of us, and we are seeking the kingdom together.” He reminds me constantly that we are not drumming alone.
Thanks, Caroline, for making me choke up in front of my class.
And thanks for reminding me, and them, that we seek first the kingdom together, and that we are not drumming alone.
Pine Tree Dr.