Have you ever been blindsided by information or an event that totally changed the way you looked at the world? Maybe it was news that your job would be terminated or that you or a loved one were about to face a serious medical challenge. Something happened that struck fear in your heart. You realized that life would never be the same.
I think the difference between teenagers and adults is the way they make life-altering decisions. Teens are usually forward thinking and make major decisions based on their dreams. They’re going to change the world. Those of us who are deeper into life (job, family, community) are more reactionary. We typically think we’ve got life figured out until something unexpected slaps us in the face and turns our world upside. When that happens, our reactions become attempts to restore the equilibrium in life we experienced prior to the event. We’re afraid, and we don’t want to be afraid any more.
Jesus shared an interesting story with his followers that is typically referred to as the parable of the rich fool. You know the story. A rich guy had some good years which turned into a good life. He was so successful that he had to build bigger buildings to store all of his stuff. His attitude was “I’ve worked hard, provided for my family…it’s time to kick back and relax.” So far, so good. Most of us Americans can connect with his “I’ve worked for it – it’s mine” mentality. Actually, most of us, if we’re honest, must admit that we don’t have a problem with it. Jesus’ disciples probably didn’t have a problem with it either. After all, isn’t it prudent to work and save so that you can take care of yourself and your family in the future? Yes, but…
I think Jesus’ disciples were responsible, professional, business oriented people who may have been surprised by the slap-in-the-face, life-altering, paradigm-shifting ending of Jesus’ story: Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided? So is he who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:20-21, NKJV).
Did Jesus’ followers expect such a tragic end for an otherwise successful entrepreneur? In fairness to the text, the parable of the rich fool is about covetousness. This business man was extremely successful and not willing to share his excess. However, I don’t think his disciples got it. Have you ever wondered why Jesus spent the next 12 verses (Luke’s account) calming them down (“don’t’ worry,” “do not fear, little flock”)? What Jesus’ followers heard, I believe, was “Forget what you’ve learned about profits, savings, and a business model that generates some level of predictability.” Instead, Jesus tells them to seek his kingdom first and all of their needs would be met. Did you catch that? Don’t worry about food, clothing, shelter, planning – trust God instead. Has any one of us done that today…this week…month…ever?
As an admissions director at one of Belhaven University’s adult and graduate studies campuses, I deal with adults whose lives, many times, have been uprooted by unexpected information or events. In fact, one of the main drivers of adults returning to college these days is a life crisis – the loss of a job, of a potential promotion…of a spouse. Like Jesus’ disciples, we find our lives clipping along at a comfortable and somewhat predictable pace only to find that kingdom life isn’t based on some rational model found in a textbook.
In response to his disciples’ crisis of faith recorded in Luke 12, Jesus taught a lesson of trust and hope: Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Jesus asked his followers to exchange the old paradigm of possessions and predictability for the new paradigm of the kingdom (giving and serving). He taught them that the transition requires trust, a step of faith, and the willingness to exchange worry about the future for a day-by-day trusting in his resources.
If you’re reading this blog, you probably expected it to somehow relate to adult education. Here’s the connection. I’ve worked in this field long enough to have learned that, for many adults, returning to college is perceived as part of the solution to an unexpected life crisis. If a job is lost or a promotion missed, returning to college can make one more marketable. If we’ve been part of an organization’s “right-sizing” strategy, an undergraduate or graduate degree can help us transition to a new career path. For many, earning a degree can provide a level of job security in uncertain economic times.
If you feel that your circumstances are pushing you back into the classroom, you’re not alone. More than one-half of today’s college students are non-traditional, adult students. In fact, Belhaven University has six adult and graduate campuses around the southeast that make up a community of adult learners who have decided to take Jesus at his word. Returning to college is not easy or comfortable, but for our students it has become the next step forward. For those who seek Jesus’ direction in their lives, there are many examples of God’s provision. They’ve learned that out of a crisis comes a kingdom, and in that kingdom are found all of the resources needed for the task at hand…and much more.