Saturday, July 28, 2007

A Sense of Place

I love how different seasons of life bring new appreciation for old and familiar stories. In the theater of my mind I have replayed again and again, in recent weeks, the story of the centurion with a sick servant recounted in the ninth chapter of the gospel of Luke.

While the faith of the centurion who believed that Jesus would heal his sick servant is particularly highlighted at the end of the narrative, I especially love the middle of the story. To me, the climactic scene occurs when the centurion sends out his servants to meet Jesus on the road to beseech him, “Just say the word and my servant will be healed.” But, not stopping there, the centurion instructs the servants to explain, “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me.”

I guess it is simple, but I appreciate how clearly the centurion knew his place. He knew the realm in which he was called to obedience and submission and he knew the realm in which he was called to leadership. In understanding his place he seemed rightly able to acknowledge the authority of Christ.

In addition to attending about five other science-teaching workshops today, I attended a seminar entitled Taking on Leadership. It was largely a forum to discuss the qualities needed for effective leadership and it provided time to introspectively gauge our own leadership abilities. The underlying implication seemed to be that, ideally, one should strive to be a leader in every possible area of life.

This implication is a difficult one for me to accept and I realized that while engaging the tasks of a leader can be important in specific times and places, it is just as important to know the places where we are called to be obedient, or simply put, to follow.

Why aren’t there ever any workshops entitled Taking on Obedient Following? The centurion said that he was simultaneously under authority and in authority. Why is it that the in authority part becomes glorified and the under authority part so frequently gets dismissed?

I am a woman under authority. In some places of my life I am in authority. I must seek to practice the duties of each accordingly. Elisabeth Elliot writes, “A sense of place is important for a Christian. We cannot give honor duly – where it is due – without a sense of place. Who is this person, who am I in relation to him? We are people under authority at all times, owing honor and respect to a king or a president, to parents, to master, teacher, husband or boss, to ministers and elders and bishops, and of course always and most important to Christ.”