Back in seminary, I was in charge of an annual volleyball tournament for our church’s college department that was held to raise money for summer missions. This was no small undertaking as the college ministry spanned around a dozen campuses and had a weekly Sunday attendance of over 800. The tournament, in turn, raised tens of thousands of dollars for dozens of short-term trips.
With each representative campus having its own Bible Study led by a “shepherd,” my first course of action in organizing the tournament was to have each shepherd pick team captains from within their studies thus giving me specific contacts to communicate with as the planning progressed. With each passing day and gentle nudging, I received the lists from successive shepherds except for one. I was running out of time and the stress was building.
So I emailed him. Nothing.
I called. No answer.
I left messages. Crickets.
With each attempt to get this final list, I became increasingly frustrated. It was clear to me in harassing the other shepherds for their lists that this was far down on their list of priorities (if it was on it at all), but this was ridiculous.
Finally, I tracked down his under-shepherds on a Sunday morning and, trying to control my anger, asked where the shepherd had been and if they could get him to get me the list. They smiled wryly, patted me on the shoulder, and told me that it will be taken care of. It wasn’t.
I just about gave up when I finally heard. Not from the shepherd who had mysteriously dropped off the face of the earth but from our pastor when he announced that this shepherd, due to gross sin, had been disqualified and removed from his position. I later got more details privately, but I can only imagine the grief, anguish, and scrambling to find a new shepherd as well as dealing with the fallout from his other position as the chaplain of a very prominent organization.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. You see, I was so caught up in what was most important to me that I didn’t even consider that there was something much more significant going on elsewhere. To this day, I strive to give the benefit of the doubt and make sure everyone is okay if there is any change in a normal routine rather than demanding or even seeing only what I think or desire. Though it is challenging at times when, for example, deadlines are looming and tens of thousands of dollars are involved, but it is dangerous to demand that what is important to you must be important to others.
You can’t see others if you’re only looking at yourself.