Yesterday I had an amazing experience. I heard the Lord speaking through an old friend. His name is Brian Mashburn and we were undergraduate students at Harding at the same time. We both started school in the fall of 86 and pledged brother/sister social clubs together. Although he wasn’t in my immediate small circle of friends, he was in the next wider circle of acquaintances.
Brian was a very energetic, life-filled person. He seemed to love being in the spotlight and having the attention of the people around him. He was a nice guy — not conceited — but really enjoyed the limelight. He swallowed live goldfish on the campus tv show. He ran for SA president with the idea that people should vote for him because his last name — Mashburn — was a combination of the title of the coolest tv show ever (M*A*S*H) and an 80’s term that meant “really cool.” Funny guy.
Brian left Harding and went into youth ministry, a career choice that made perfect sense for his personality. In time, he was asked to speak at youth events on campus. When my girls came up for Uplift, he was often on the speaking rotation. My memories of Brian convinced me that he was probably very funny and I assumed he had a good message, but I kept thinking, “Brian the goldfish swallower?”
Yesterday he spoke in chapel. He spoke about the need for being genuine. He spoke of his own personal journey from a mental assent to a no-holds-barred relationship with Jesus. He spoke of betrayal and reconciliation. He spoke of our need for communion with God and others. He spoke of the need for us to share our stories with others. He spoke of reaching people through being Jesus to them rather than teaching them facts.
He was scheduled to speak again at 11:00 and I felt compelled to listen to more. This time, he spoke of our need to change and become humble. He spoke of the only time Jesus described his own heart, “I am meek and lowly in heart.” He spoke of our need for humility and how our personal and corporate ministry would be so different if we saw Jesus when we saw others. How humble would we be if treated children as if they were Jesus? “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.”
Because Brian spoke so personally of his own experience, it was impossible to listen to him and think, “Brother so-and-so really needs to hear this.” All I could think of was myself. How I’ve fallen short. How there’s too much of me left. How much pride I still bring into my daily life. How poorly I treat others and yet how often I tell myself and God I’m doing the best I can.
The truth is, I probably am doing the best I can, but God does not call us to do our own personal best. He asks us to set ourselves aside and do his best. To be his hands, his feet, his voice. Immanuel — God with us — is still here. We are to be Immanuel now; we are to be the physical presence of God in this world. I am to be Immanuel; I am to be the physical presence of God in this world. In my world.
Amazing love, how can it be? That you, my God would die for me!