Tuesday, April 14, 2009

bitter...and yet sweet



We have 15 days of school left.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

we're missing the point

I had the privilege of going to a sit down dinner where Ben Carson was speaking tonight. Dr. Bietz and Dr. Wygal had reserved a table for Southern, and they invited Christina (another student worker) and I to come along. I had heard a lot about Ben Carson, and was excited to have the opportunity to hear him in person. To be honest, I didn't know who Ben Carson was until earlier this year. Apparently, that's ridiculous judging from the reactions I got when I first admitted this. Word on the street is that this man is a pretty big deal in the Adventist community.

When we got to the Chattanooga Convention Center we found our table amongst the hundreds that were already set up with delicious looking pasta salad, dinner rolls, and cheesecake. While we waited for the event to start we enjoyed some pleasant conversation with some of the most influential people at our school. I got to witness Rika Wygal making some light hearted jabs at Dr. Wygal, immediately recognizing that Dr. Wygal had met his perfect match. And I got to listen as Mrs. Bietz told me about her new revelations as she's grown accustomed to Dr. Bietz' rigorous travel schedule. It's interesting, because the more I get to know these people, the more human they become to me. We talked about how sweaty we get during the summer, how frizzy our hair gets in the humidity, and how frustrating contacts can be when you're first trying to get them in. It's through these conversations that I realize that we're all made up of the same stuff. We all serve the same God, we all seek the same things; affirmation, love, acceptance. We are all human.

After we sat around for a bit the event finally started. A guy got up and started talking about this organization called, "Why Know?". Come to find out, this organization was the reason this event was taking place. It was a coming out party, they were planning to reveal their name change and their new mission, and this was the entire reason that we were there. But, not for our table. We came to hear Ben Carson speak. A lot of us didn't even know what "Why Know?" was.

From what I gathered "Why Know" (now "On Point") is a kind of mentor program for local highschools. Sarah and Nick say they've understood them to be an organization that promotes abstinence in the high schools, but from what I understand they do a lot of different things for teens in the community. Good things. Admirable things. Life changing things.

Before Ben Carson came up to speak the director of this organization gave a presentation on "Why Know?". She told success stories about teens whose lives had been impacted by this organization, emphasizing that this program is about forming relationships. These are teens who have been involved in gangs, are doing drugs, are having sex....are broken. These are teens searching for acceptance, and finding it in these people. It was inspiring listening to this woman speak. She was passionate, she was transparent, and she was absolutely dedicated to this outreach program.

After she gave her talk, it was time for her to introduce "The Man". In her introduction she listed the many things that Ben Carson had accomplished, from receiving the Jefferson Award to being the first to separate Siamese twins. This man...was impressive.

And then, there he was.

Ben Carson.

In the flesh.

He gave a good talk. He reflected on his life, explaining how he got to the place he is now, and what he has learned. But, to be honest, I wasn't overly impressed. He said a lot of things that weren't really new. He said things like, "We have to make sure to let them [teens] know that it's ok to fail." and "We need to teach children the correct model for marriage." No doubt, these are good things. Things that I would definitely agree are important...but there didn't seem to be a whole lot of meat. Nothing that made me tilt my head, squint my eyes, say "mmmm", and nod my head. And I wasn't sitting there waiting to be blown out of my seat, but for everything that has been said about him, I guess I was looking for some inspiration, or insight that maybe would change the way I view life and the world. There was one thing he said that did make me think a lot, and I'll probably blog about that later, but my point here is...I was more touched and inspired by the woman who spoke before, than by this man. Don't get me wrong, this man is really brilliant. No doubt a man of God, using his incredible talent to touch hundreds, no probably thousands, of lives. And for this I really do think he's exceptional...but maybe not any more than other gifted people I've come across. Gifted people that haven't met the president, who haven't separated one brain from another, and who don't bring in hundreds of people when they are asked to speak somewhere. But gifted people just the same.

After Dr. Carson was done speaking, a high school junior named Anna Stroud took the stage. She started talking about how her life has changed since she's become involved with "Why Know?" She talked about her insecurities and struggles as she tried to deal with the pressures that our society has put on young girls, and the peer pressure she was getting to conform to the materialistic ideals.

It was at this point that I started noticing something shocking. People were actually getting up and leaving. Right in the middle of this young girls testimony, people were checking out. They had heard Ben Carson speak, and that's what they had come for, now it was time to go. I sat there, astonished, watching women gather up their purses, and men straightening their suits, thinking to myself, "you are missing the point!"

THIS girl. THESE teens. THESE stories. THEY are the reason that we were there, or the reason we should have been there. It wasn't about Ben Carson. He was a bonus, no doubt...there wouldn't have been such a turn out if it wasn't for him. But the point of this whole thing was to inspire, to raise awareness, and to create a passion for our broken teens. But it had become about the person, and not about the cause.

It's so easy to glorify people isn't it? We are a nation that measures people's worth by their accomplishments, not who they are. If you're not interesting enough, successful enough, pretty enough, or smart enough, you're not worth our time. We are called to "not be of this world", but we have become enamored with prestige, and awed by material success. Ben Carson, as I think I've emphasized already, is an amazing man. I don't want to minimize how giving and influential he's been in furthering the kingdom of God and impacting lives. But this man is human, just like Anna. He struggles with the same things, breathes the same air, and...(I was thinking about talking about poop here, I think I'll refrain....).

We are all made up of the same stuff. We worship the same God, we seek the same things; affirmation, love, acceptance. But so often we miss the point. We forget that there is a cause to become passionate about that is so much greater and bigger than anything we could create for ourselves. Jesus didn't want to be a celebrity, he didn't want people to put him on a pedestal. The people that He glorified were the down trodden, the outcasts, and the broken. It wasn't about Him and the amazing things He could do, it was about the cause.

This experience was awesome, and I'm so glad I went. But I'm not glad for the reasons I thought I would be, and I wasn't inspired by the people I thought I would be inspired by. But I'm pretty sure that's the beauty of it.

See it Tara. See through the fluff, the titles, and the fame. See the cause, and see the people. See each individual for who they are, not what they've done. See the beauty in brokenness, and the value in success. Find the balance. And don't forget that you, too, are human.