A couple years ago, I reached out to a college advisor who had impacted me while I was in college. During my college years, he was a relatable Christian man and a principally-based leader. I watched him work, lead a difficult team and raise his family. While this was at Washington State University, he asked me questions about my life and faith and challenging questions about how I was living out both during my college years. That wasn’t his job, but, none the less, he went there.
This advisor was Dr. Jack Burns. At the time, he was just “Jack.” He was the Greek Life Advisor in Residence Life and was working on his Ph.D. at Washington State University. I was on the Interfraternity Council. Today, Dr. Burns is the Coordinator and professor for the Leadership Studies at Whitworth University.
For one year of my college career, I had weekly meetings with Jack. There had been challenges in the Greek system and that required weekly meetings with individual leaders, including me. We’d meet on Tuesday mornings and I’d sit in a chair against a brick wall to the left of his desk.
I can remember one specific meeting around the holidays where Jack mentioned church. I’d said, “I grew up in church.” He quickly lashed out, as if he’d been waiting for the opportunity, “Then why are you f-ing around with booze? Why are you f-ing around with girls? And why are you f-ing around with your life?” He had me…and even used my language.
We continued to meet for a year, every week. Jack never again asked those questions or used that language. Though he didn’t ask the questions, every time I sat in that chair in front of that brick wall, those questions rung through my head. What am I doing?
There were a number of things going on in my life at this time, but it was that meeting and those three questions that led me over the next few years to get my life on the right track.
A few years ago I wrote to Dr. Burns at Whitworth and thanked him for those meetings and specifically those three questions. He responded kindly but said, “I don’t remember the meeting and I don’t remember the questions. I really don’t remember having a vision for helping you get your life on track.”
He didn’t need to remember. He’d done it. It was even more lovely and more of Jesus, that he didn’t remember or have a strategy or plan.
Today’s entry in Oswald Chambers’ classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, asks, “Which are the people who have included us most? Not the ones who thought they did, but those who had not the remotest notion that they were influencing us?…the implicit is never conscious; if it is conscious it ceases to have the unaffected loveliness of the touch of Jesus.”
So who are the folks who may impacted you? They may not have even had a plan to do it, but they did it. In the same way, who are the folks in your life today that you may be impacting? They aren’t part of some strategy, it’s just before you and happening. Embrace each of them.