The Radar Is On

A repost of the second article I wrote published by Faith on Campus. “Honing Our Chops, Part II: Radar.”

[I recently finished Life by Keith Richards, lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones. When most people think of the Stones they probably think of Mick Jagger first (no thanks to Keisha and Maroon 5). But Keith has really been the leader, glue, and engine for the band that turns 50 this year. I found a lot of what Keith writes about in Life to speak into my vocation as a Campus Minister. These are my reflections on Keith’s insights.]

“The radar is on whether you know it or not. You cannot switch it off. You’re constantly on the alert…You start looking around, and everything’s a subject for a song.” from Life, p. 183

At the heart of Christian theology lies the idea that God is one. And if God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4), then the implications are astounding, with, perhaps, the largest being (to borrow a phrase from Richard Rohr) that “everything belongs”.

Many of us live with a bifurcated (or muti-furcated…just made up a word) world. College students are bombarded with this constantly. Whether it be sacred vs. secular, personal vs. public, on-line vs real-life, dualism abounds.

In their excellent little book, The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness (a great discussion starter), Donald Opitz and Derek Melleby write: “Our academic work is generally a study of pieces, fragments of the whole. Our apprehension of reality is splintered into a million fragments. Sometimes advanced education makes reality feel event more fragmented.”

Students, I have found, don’t even realize what has happened. It’s just the waters we all swim in.

But, fragmentation is not how God intended us to experience the world. God is one. And this one God created the world, and all things are his, and he called the whole thing good. Shalom is how the story begins and it is how the story ends

And so the campus minister must live with the radar on. We must be students of all of life. We need to become masters at pointing things out: Have you ever noticed? What about this? Did you know? Why is this thing so humming with life? Look at how these things connect!

To paraphrase Keith: “You start looking around, and everything’s a subject.”

A couple of practical thoughts:

  1. Read a lot. Read a lot of different things. Read things you know nothing about. When you come across something interesting share it with your students and how you see it connecting to the larger story.
  2. Have hobbies and interests (and relationships) outside of your ministry world. There are people in my life that teach me more about campus ministry than any book, or conference, or blog who are a million miles removed from the university bubble.
  3. Integrate. Write it down. Keep a notebook. Underline stuff. File articles. Blog. Do whatever it takes to begin putting what you learn together.

And most importantly, model this for your students. There is something wonderful about sitting down with a student and helping them see how their humanities class connects to broader ideas of justice, which connects to a deep desire to see things put back together (Shalom restored), which connects back to a good God who is one.

But there is something even more wonderful about watching a student transform from a biology major to a life major. That moment when a student says: “Hey, what about this…check out this connection.”

Annie Dillard writes in To Teach a Stone to Talk: “We are here to witness. That is why I take walks: to keep an eye on things.”

Keep the radar on. Study the world around you. Keep your eyes open. Teach your students how to pay attention.

Develop your radar chops.

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