A Different Standard

I got up this morning and went to chapel. The chapel wasn’t focused on the terrorist attacks of September 11th at all, but by the time it was over, I couldn’t have imagined a more fitting response to that day – –  a day when so many lives were senselessly destroyed.

I’m one who doesn’t give the title of “most” to days or moments carelessly. We live many days and many moments, so the competition for the label “most” is vast. However, I would at least call this morning’s chapel one of the most moving affirmations of human worth and value that I’ve been allowed to experience in an intimate way.

A local organization working with mentally and developmentally challenged individuals in our local community was invited to chapel to share the mission and vision of the organization. Some of the mentally and developmentally challenged individuals assisted by the organization came to the chapel as performers.

The men and women did a sign language presentation for several songs, sang a few songs as a choir, and sang a few songs as individuals. They weren’t good — not by the typical standards used by most of us. The sign language was out of sync. The choirs numbers were mostly simple Sunday school songs that many of us learned in elementary school, and with the choir rushing the tempo in its enthusiasm, these songs flew by faster than they ever did in Sunday school. And, the soloists were off-key the entire time (of course, so am I). Basically, in a world of polish and glitz, no one would gravitate towards this performance.

And, yet, I sat through the last sign language number fighting back tears. Yes, me, the perfectionist. Me, the one who has the mantra, “No one is going to do it right, so I’m going to do it myself.” Me, the one who takes it as a personal affront when incompetent individuals are put into positions of authority. Me. I’ve been mentored by patient, godly people who planted the seeds in my heart to recognize the value of mentoring. Had it not been for those patient mentors, Donald Trump would have nothing on me. I’d run about firing every third person if I had the power to do so. Wrong demeanor, wrong skill set, wrong reactions…I’d have a long list of irredeemable wrongs. So this mornings chapel was the perfect reminder for — me.

I was reminded that God doesn’t look at the outward person; he looks at the heart. The performers this morning may not have even been playing in the same ballpark as talented musical performers, but they were playing on a field that many of us don’t step onto often enough — a field of sincerity and authenticity. One gentleman kept waving toward the crowd and over exaggerating his sign language motions, but why does that matter? His heart was on his sleeve in an authentic manner that eludes many of the best performers of our day.
The director of the program shared how he was awakened one morning by the sound of one of the performers praying aloud at 5 in the morning. When asked if that was a regular practice, the performer shared with the director that he awakens often at 5 to pray for those close to him. I could tell from the interview on the stage that those prayers were of the most simplistic, childlike type. But, sometimes my prayers are probably too complicated. Didn’t Jesus himself use humble, unpretentious children to make a point about the way that I’m to approach God (Mt. 18:2-4)?

And, the most humbling, worth-affirming part of the whole morning was our students’ reactions to the performers. Lancaster Bible College is well-known in Christian circles. We’re able to invite some phenomenal Christian authors, intellectuals, pastors, and other leaders to our campus. These speakers are top-notch and bring everything a speaker is supposed to bring — enthusiasm, engaging topics, humor. And, our students respond favorably. They applaud the speakers before shuffling off to class, occasionally giving Facebook shout outs. But, this morning, as the group of performers closed out their final number, hundreds of students rose to their feet in a standing ovation for the group. And, for a few minutes, I looked around and wondered if I was seeing the world through the eyes that Jesus wants me to use, a world with its standards calibrated to a more significant measuring stick than the one currently measuring our culture.