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Friday, February 17, 2006
Imagine the View from Here
I am part of a strategic planning task force here at the seminary. I lead one of the sub groups who is asking the strategic questions about the people we teach and train here-- our students. Given the charge we have been issued, it's been a struggle. This morning I was reflecting about our task when I remembered something that happened to me when I worked in Washington D.C.

I served as a Legislative Aid in the Office of Senator David Pryor. Legislative work is non glamorous stuff most of the time, keeping you more in the bowels of Capitol Hill than in the congressional chambers. It's true. Congressional staffers in D.C. spend most of their time actually underground, walking back and forth between the office buildings and the capitol. In retrospect, legislative work looks more like a bunch of gophers tunneling around at high speeds than sophisticated negotiations over tea.

If I am honest, any job I have ever had, despite high flying titles and strategic job descriptions, has looked like this. Day to day work is often a grinding process, an ever increasing sequence of small details. It's why we use phrases like "I'm buried" to talk about a lot of our days at the office. Too long in that mode leads to the inevitability of losing sight of the vision.

One day in the middle of a typical afternoon on "the Hill" my schedule was interrupted with an invitation to come to the grand Capitol rotunda. We arrived to find a young Congressman from Oklahoma and a small group of people. He indicated he was going to give us a tour. A tour? That's the last thing I needed or wanted at this point in the week. I thought I had seen it all. That's when he took us over to the side of the grand room and through a door that looked like a part of the wall. It was pitch black so the Congressman turned on his flash light. He then led us up a narrow, winding, scaffolding-like staircase that seemed to be endless. It became apparent from the trajectory of our climb that we were actually scaling the rotunda of the United States Capitol building above the interior ceiling and yet underneath the outer dome. After about an hour of climbing, we came to a small padlocked door. Now we understood why a United States Congressman escorted us. Only they are entrusted with the keys to this lock. As opened the lock and pushed open the door, the bright light of the afternoon pierced our eyes. We walked through amazed to find ourselves standing on the very top of the rotunda of the United States Capitol Building. By law, this is the highest point in the District of Columbia. From here we could see miles across the city and beyond to the neighboring states. All of the grand monuments and memorials were not only visible but formed a kind of constellation across the landscape, narrating a story among themselves that couldn't be glimpsed from the ground. In fact, in our underground legislative existence you could forget their storied presence entirely. We walked around the small enclosed open air circle for half an hour, in a kind of awe-struck gaze. Then it was time to make our descent back down through the gates into the grind.

I have never forgotten that moment nor the view it afforded. It brought a greater sense of awe to the menial nature of what by all accounts was a meaningful job. Beyond that it gives me a metaphor that lends meaning to my present job. This is the essence of strategic planning isn't it? I find myself wondering how our task force is going to accomplish this large task between 10:15 and 11:45am on five or six Friday mornings over the next three months. To jump from 50 hastily processed emails to 10 returned telephone calls to three other pressing meetings with urgent agendas into a 1.5 hour slot in which we are charged to develop a strategic plan for an institution purporting to carry the banner of Jesus Christ in the World. . . . . . it seems insane. And then I remember that unplanned afternoon excursion to the top of the free world and of my forever changed perspective.

Where is that place for us today and how do we get there? For you?

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posted by John David Walt | at 2/17/2006 08:42:00 AM

 

5 Comments:

Blogger Timothy Putnam said...

Welcome Back. Good to read you again, J.D.

2:01 PM EST  
Blogger DGH said...

wow, now that is cool! i wish I could have that tour, heh....Thanks...and for a church planter it is nice to hear the same insight when it comes to "big" ideas becoming reality! Thank you!

In Trinity,
D.G.

11:53 PM EST  
Anonymous melissa d. said...

That is such a cool story! Thanks for sharing it.

I had a moment similar to that last week when the revival-esque thing was going on over here. I had been so bitter because this amazing movement was taking place in Hughes, and none of my normal meetings or obligations were cancelled on account of it, so I really felt like I was missing out.
I got out of my last meeting of the night and raced across the green, and breathlessly ran upstairs. I picked a spot in the balcony, plopped my stuff on the floor, and paused a second...and then I looked down. The whole first floor of the auditorium was full of people completely abandoned in worship. Many had arms raised, singing at the top of their lungs; others were facedown; and some were at the altar, huddled in prayer with other students, tears streaming down their faces. It was absolutely beautiful. I don't remember what song we were singing at the time, and it doesn't really matter anyway. The most important music was being raised out of the hearts below me.
To witness that -- to see something come to pass that my friends and I and so, so many others both on-campus and off had been praying for for the past few days...weeks...months...some have testified to petitioning God for it for years, even -- stopped me in my tracks. It was just the humbling thing I needed to put things back into perspective and remind me of my place in the universe. It was a wonderful, heart-shifting moment, and it will stay with me.

2:34 AM EST  
Blogger gmw said...

hmm...something like the disciples' experience of Jesus' transfiguration? a grander perspective, yes, but where does it lead us?

prayers for the strategic work.

10:46 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Good to see you back J.D. I've missed your significant contributions to my spiritual life.

Peace to you and yours my friend.

Eric

2:40 PM EST  

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