Why Taking Care of "the box" is a Big Deal.

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First let me address my extended hiatus over the last several weeks. November in graduate school means there are papers due leading up to Thanksgiving. My fellow classmates and I will return for several more classes after the break and brace for the final push into our exams. All my attention has been focused here and my “writing for pleasure” blog had to take a back seat.

But! This week I had one of those moments which reminded me why I enjoy ministry and why I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.

As most of you know I serve on staff as the Minister to Students in a local church here in NC. The last several weeks my students and I have been approaching the concept of reconciliation through the means of creation. When I say this I’m speaking of the all encompassing kind, creation as birds, fish, trees, and flowers. You know the kind of stuff Wendell Berry wrote about, which includes “us” as well.

Well, the other night we were discussing the purpose of our salvation. What is it actually for? The students and I came to the conclusion of God wanting us to be active participates in creation. God is one that creates and has instilled in us the desire to create as well. This relationship establishes a “co-creating process” between God and God’s people which is where things get exciting. During this conversation we somehow brought up the terms “stewardship and dominion.” When the students started unpacking dominion, they used words and sentence around words like rule over and authority. Now these are not necessarily bad things, but the way they used them seemed to indicate those terms possessed a bit of negative connotation.

Fair enough, but what about stewardship.

They struggled a bit. It’s a churchy word. Most understood it as to watch over something. We had played a game earlier that evening involving a small shoe box, so thinking on the fly, I picked up the box and walked over to one of my female students and tossed the box at her.

“Look after this. Take care of it,” I said. Thinking this was a sufficient stewardship answer I prepared for the conversation to keep moving. However, when I turned my back I heard a noise. A small boom which I turned a discovered was my student kicking the box away from herself.

Now, students don’t need a reason to do anything. Hell, most adults don’t either. How many times have you asked someone why they did something and their response was “I don’t know? I just did it.” Of course I had to ask her why she did this and that’s where things got interesting.

“Why’d you kick the box,” I asked as other students laughed.

“You didn’t tell me how to take care of it.”

It was a smartass answer…

Yet she was practicing genuine critical thinking.

This caught me totally by surprise, but only for a second.

I picked up a Bible on a nearby table and grabbed the box again to hand to her.

“Let’s try this again. Take care of this box. Here’s a book that tells you how.”

I turned to walk away when I heard the same boom of her kicking the box.

“You didn’t tell me how I was supposed to read this,” she said.

This was a special moment. I knew right then that it was, maybe not for everyone in the room, but something was happening. God was moving.

Fair enough. I picked the box back up and begin talking to the entire group about what we had just discussed, our ideas and definitions around the words dominion and stewardship.

“Dominion looks like this.” I repeated handing her the box and the Bible and asked her again to take care of it and use the book. Promptly she kicked it. I had a small pen in my hand and I lightly tapped her on the head with it.

“Wrong. Try it again,” I said.

We repeated the entire scene again. Me charging her with the task, she kicking the box, me rapping her lightly on the head. By now, I had most of the group’s attention.

“Now let’s try it this way.” I picked up the box and took the Bible from her. Instead of standing over her as I had been doing, I sat “criss-crossed applesauce” beside her.

“Hey Katie, this box I have here is really important to me. I really care about what happens to it. I want to give it to you with the hope that you’ll care about it too. I’ve got this book here which describes how I want you to do this. This book can help you see how I interact with the box, but it’s not exhaustive Do you know what that means? It means there are some gray areas in there which you’ll have to figure out and work through yourself. It means you get to create how you take care of the box too based on how you’ve seen me do it. There’s room for error, so don’t feel you have to do it perfect. I just want to see that you care and try. Cool?

She took the box, and when I stood up and moved away, I didn’t hear any “boom.”