*Okay, before you say anything, I understand that this picture is another one of a person walking along a path in the woods. I just thought the image of this big, older-than-three-of-her-lifetimes tree, which looked like it should be dead, but is, in fact, alive is arching over her. Protecting her. Sheltering her. And she is either blissfully unaware, or blissfully aware.*
Everyone hates the dean of theology at my school. And by everyone, I don’t mean everyone, I just mean that the general feeling towards him is not one of agreement, nor liking. I mean that I can count on one hand the people I’ve had interactions with who have told me they like him as an individual.
This honestly makes me really sad.
I’ve never had much interaction with the guy and I’m not sure about the implications of a lot of what I’ve heard of his theological standpoints, but from the few people I’ve heard who like him, he seems delightful. He will stand up on stage at chapel and make sly jokes about the meme page at our school (honestly it’s seedy underbelly, but hey, Christians are no better than anyone else) and tell us all about how our professor of historical theology and Christianity talks to dead people. He’s rather soft-spoken, which I think speaks of gentleness only brought as a fruit of the spirit and when he talks about his theology, I always know it is tied directly to who he knows God to be.
My dean of theology knows God, and of this I am confident.
I am speaking here about the distinct and real difference between knowing about God and knowing God.
My youth ministry professor (yes, it exists, isn’t it awesome?!?) told us this story in class once of this man who went to an ivy league divinity school, got his doctorate, and started a church (or started preaching at a church, one of the two). After some time preaching and teaching and steadily losing members of the church, he decided to open the Bible and began preaching through the book of Romans.
This is where things get hilarious because this is where the guy converts himself.
There is a distinct and definitive difference between knowing about God and knowing God. There are a lot of people I’ve met who I cannot say this about and still others where you just have to dig a bit to see it, but my dean is not one of these people. It is evident.
I bet right about now, you’re wondering why I titled this post what I did. It is because I was laying in bed just now thinking about two of my very good friends who are theology majors (and girls, ayyoooo women in theology), who I overheard one day on the way to class say, “I am done hearing that man talk about the roles of women.” This is incredibly valid because, as a white boy studying youth ministry, I have no idea what the pressure must be like studying in a field historically monopolized by men. But thinking back, I wish I would have spoken up and said something like, “And I’m tired of hearing everyone complain about [PRIVACY IS IMPORTANT, KIDS].”
I wish I would have been his advocate.
Yeah, it would have been flawed and imperfect and you probably just read it as a little harsh. But it is an honest reflection of my own attitude towards the state of my department right now. We are broken. And whoops, people don’t just magically stop being sinful when they study good doctrine and what dead people have thought about good doctrine. This is true of my good friends the theology majors and my good friend my dean.
In that moment, my dean had no voice. He had no defense. And it is unfair to everyone involved that I did not speak up for him. It might have prompted anger, division, and more bitterness in the hearts of my colleagues, but it also might have prompted an honest discussion about how to best heal the deep wounds I see all around in my department and my institution of learning. Goodness knows I think the benefits of the latter far outweigh the possibility of the former.
Speaking up for those without a voice does not only mean small children in countries far away that you don’t know personally.
My dean is as flawed as I am flawed. My dean is as sinful as I am sinful. My dean needs as much guidance and correction as those two girls, who, by the way, were headed to a class where it is very possible they feel undervalued.
I love all three of them, but that day I held my tongue, I neglected to show it.
Correction is a form of love, of this I am certain.
I am sure Jesus would have done this thing for him.
I am sure Jesus does this thing for me every day.
And if I can’t be strong enough to allow another, real, tangible person to speak up for me when I need it, how am I supposed to allow Jesus to do the same for me as the living, real, and tangible God? How will I find the humility to do it for others when I see they need it?