the bell tolls for thee...in a good way
I have a friend who runs a camp outside of Toronto. It’s one of the largest camps in North America. I spoke for the staff there a few summers ago, and just the staff numbered over 300. Their vision is to simply be the presence of Jesus by serving the campers. It’s more of an Emmaus Road experience (where people end up walking along the road with Jesus for a while before they recognize him) than a Damascus Road experience (where Paul is confronted by God’s truth and revelation).
When I spoke for CCCI this past April, my friend reminded me of the campwide form of “rule of life” that they’ve adopted. They have a big bell that rings several times a day, and when it rings it reminds the staff of the commitments that they’ve made by being there for the summer. Their commitments spell BLESS, making it so simple to remember that I could pretty much articulate the essence of it still, several years after being there. I offer it to you here, with the shortest of commentary on how each of these elements speaks to creating your own rule of life.
B = be a blessing – that’s why you’re here. Genesis 12 reminds us all that, as children of God, we’re put here to actively bless others. Each of us needs to find our way to do that, and finding our way is best done in community because we need each other to discover our strengths and callings. Reminding myself everyday that I’m here, not to consume, but to bless, is a sort of north star, orienting me to the proper priorities.
L = learn something new today – this has to do with inhaling, or receiving. Bible reading, listening prayer, and reading are a few of the ways we do this.
E = eat with someone you don’t know – though this is hard to put into practice in a non-camp setting, the principle of hospitality applies everywhere. Am I willing to make space in my life for people I don’t know? Am I willing to meet new people and invite them? This is significant, and many of us struggle with this because we feel a sense of relational overload. However, it’s important to realize that the gift of being present with another, really listening and responding, needn’t mean lifelong friendship. Sometimes one simple encounter is enough to change the course of a person’s life. My friend, Major Ian Thomas picked up a hitchhiker, a German youth, back in about 1947. As a result, the man came to Christ, and went on to direct a Bible School. A little hospitality goes a long way sometimes, but whether we see results or not doesn’t matter. How will I make room in my life today?
S = share what you’ve learned today with someone – this is significant because it forces us out of our isolation, forces us to think about what we’ve learned and share it with someone. This is good because thinking about this forces me to move outside my own skin and relate with others meaningfully.
S = serve someone by helping them – it won’t be hard, once we start thinking this way, to find someone who could use a little help. It might be a simple as opening a door for someone with their hands full. It might be as profound as flying across the country to mourn with a friend who’s lost a spouse. But big or little isn’t the point; orienting yourself to the world as a servant moves us away from being self-absorbed, and this is a move all of us could stand to make.
When the bell rings, you do a little mental checklist. I’m here to bless others so…am I learning, eating with someone new, sharing what I learned, and serving? Some people are afraid of legalism regarding this kind of stuff. I’m not. I don’t beat myself up when I forget or fail in my rule of life. Everyday’s new, so I forget about failures and start each day fresh. I’m more afraid that, in our fear of legalism, we’ll end up doing nothing to orient ourselves properly, and slowly drift into boredom, anxiety, and a meaning crisis. All this could be avoided by listening for the bell.