Friday afternoon was the Inauguration of the new president of Whitworth University. Beve and I sat on bleachers, being 'general admission', ala choir groupies. It wasn't our first University President Inauguration. Three years ago, when E graduated from WSU at mid-year, her commencement ceremonies were hi-jacked (at least from our uninformed point-of-view) by the inauguration of WSU's president. Let me tell you, the difference between the two ceremonies was remarkable (clearly, since I'm remarking on it!). That December day, while we twiddled our thumbs waiting for the commencement to begin, various dignitaries stood and...how shall I put this?...blew their own horns. Or perhaps tooted the horns of the new president. I mean, you'd have thought the man walked on water, healed the sick, called forth Lazarus, and raised himself from the dead. And when he talked, he wasn't ashamed to admit he might well have done those things and could/would do them again, thank you very much, just watch him. It left us shaking our heads and a sour taste in our mouths, and feeling badly not just for our daughter but for all those graduates and their parents who'd hoped that someone, just one single person might have said something aimed at them and the uncertain future they were dreaming of when they moved the tassel and tossed the hat that morning.
Friday afternoon at Whitworth, the Inauguration of Beck Taylor was similar in certain superficial ways. There were dignitaries, they all wore academic robes and a stage-full of them spoke. And...that's about it. The content, the substance of the occasion was deep and wide and high and long. Measured true with the love of Christ. A pastor representing the church told Dr. Taylor (whom even the students call Beck), that, though it was audacious of him to say such things in such a vaulted company, he dared to say that only servant-leadership would do here, like the leadership of Christ. The moment power got the best of him, he'd be in danger. And the outgoing president, charged with giving 'the charge', encouraged him to make time for himself, and time for his family. He encouraged his wife to remind Beck some days that he wasn't nearly as bad as he thought he was, and other days that he wasn't nearly as good...and to have the wisdom to know which days were which. And Beck Taylor promised that he would continue to help Whitworth to walk 'the narrow ridge' of faithfulness to the gospel while grappling honestly with the issues of today. Christ spoken, all the way along.
Now I understand that this stark contrast comes in part because WSU is a public institution, and Whitworth a private Christian one. But can't the principles of servant-leadership be applied to a public institution to great benefit? Shouldn't the president of WSU also seek to serve the school before his own rise to power? And, shouldn't it also be true that a balance of personal life and family life would not hinder but help the cause of public universities because administrations would have more positive energy, not merely the candle-burning-at-both-ends kind? I don't know, just a thought. And, I dare say, the idea of adherence to a narrow ridge of faithfulness to Christ--no matter where it is--should be every Christian's prayer for every person in this world.
The bleachers were not comfortable Friday afternoon and I was sitting on both Beve's and my jackets, having forgotten my pillow. So that ceremony got long, I'm not going to lie. But it was also a deep encouragement to me.
The thing is (as my dad would say), now that that WSU president has been comfortably installed in that red-brick house (where Beve and I used to run the halls, and Beve and his buddy, the president's son, actually played golf in the second-floor hall-way), I'm guessing the entire university community has realized that he's never once walked on water, healed the sick and certainly can't raise himself or anyone else from the dead. Frankly, I'm not even sure how good a president he is. Seriously, I simply don't know. But at Whitworth, the standard is both lower and higher, if you get my drift. No one is going to expect Beck Taylor to walk on water. But they do expect him to bow to the one who does. And if he ever heals a single person, everyone around him won't pat Beck on the back, but bow and worship the One who worked through him. Part of Dr. Taylor's job is to raise not people, but funds, though in this economy, people might just be easier. But for this, too, he must follow Christ. First, last and always. To walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel.
Just like--yes, exactly like--you are expected to follow Him in the life He calls you to live. And the standard in your life cannot be compared to the world around you, but to Him. Like with Whitworth's new president, it's both lower and higher. Hallelujah.