This excerpt comes from Chapter 5 in the book.
It was August when I arrived to the British Isles. I actually had the chance to visit the college a few months earlier in the spring of 2003. In an effort to consider how two colleges could partner together, Ken Steorts [President of Visible Music College] planned a trip to the U.K., including Swansea. With me headed over in the near future, I was able to join him for this brief visit to the college. But now it was time to take up residence at the Bible College of Wales.
From the get-go, I had to adjust my eyes to the scenery. That’s the best way I can describe the situation. I had never lived nor worked in buildings that were constructed eighty or more years previous with hardly any updates since. It’s almost as if I had stepped into a time-traveling DeLorean. Outside the college, it was the twenty-first century; inside the college, it was the 1950s.
I had never been in an environment where all involved—both staff and students—literally ate, slept, worked, and played each within the same confines, those confines being primarily surrounded by a ten-foot concrete wall. It was something of an evangelical monastery.
There lay my problem from day one.
I was under the assumption that this place, in its current state of affairs, had very little to offer. Of course, anyone with half a brain would tell you the college was on a trajectory of disrepair if something did not happen sooner than later. Still, I came in as the young twenty-three year old who believed he knew what needed to happen; at least most of what needed to happen. Occasionally, I let the thought invade my mind that I had better insight than other leaders on the ground. As I’ve said before, I have a cancerous tendency to think too highly of myself.
Sometimes change is needed. However, consider this. Change might need to first happen in the change agent (or the one who believes he or she is the change agent) before anything ever takes place in another person or situation. God is always gracious enough to work through us even when there’s more to do within us. Nevertheless, reflecting back on things, a college stuck within the 1950s may not have been as terrible as a man stuck with thinking more highly of himself than he ought.
We all have those moments where we wish we could go back and talk some sense into our younger selves. That’s not possible. Yet there have been moments along the journey when I stop and realize certain things about myself. One in particular happened in the most odd of places. Perhaps I was feeling the stress of a certain situation at the time, I don’t recall, but there I was hanging my clothes out to dry in the drying room (remember, 1950s setting). In that moment of quietness, as I stood alone, I was hit with the sentiment that I might just be the most arrogant person on planet earth. Truly, that award could belong to me. I’ve had similar reflections since then as well. It’s sobering.
It’s in those moments when you see yourself, the brokenness and all, that you can respond one of three ways. (1) Reject it as nonsense; (2) Receive it, but then hate yourself for it, which will only compound the problem of self-loathing; or (3) Receive it in a way that leads you to ask for God to rub healing balm on the brokenness. And sometimes you have to actually cry out for the healing, not just merely internalize some thoughts:
Lord, my God, I cried out to you for help, and you healed me. (Ps 30:2, CEB, emphasis mine)
If ever the chance had arisen, I would have reminded myself of these things:
Change calls for patience.
Change calls for grace.
Change calls for our expectations to not be sky-high.
Change calls for securing the best way to walk with others as we are beckoned together toward change.
I’m also learning I must extend many of these toward myself—patience, grace, lowered expectations—if I am going to extend these to others. Something about loving our neighbor as ourselves.
By no means was I a bull in a china shop. However, as a young person rarely satisfied with the status quo, desiring change at a rapid rate, I lacked patience, grace, and wisdom. Instead, I should have been ready to embrace where we were right then and there. I was too immature to consider such.
I realize that change needed to take place in me above and beyond anything else within that college setting.