I had one of those moments when God whispers to me at Camp War Eagle, of all places (registering my daughter for Auburn). I knew that Auburn was started by the Methodist Church. But taking an evening to rest and reflect, I happened upon a historical plaque in the Centennial Garden in front of the Foy Student Center. It outlined a journey that began in 1856 when Methodists began the “Alabama Men’s College” on that site to prepare leaders for ministry. 8 or 10 years later, the property was deeded to the state for an agricultural and mechanical college, which eventually became Auburn University.
I imagined what it must have been like to start this school for young pastors and then see it fail, having no idea where failure would lead. The denomination at that time was divided because of issues related to slavery, and in the middle of this mission project the Civil War broke out. I’m guessing that the economy fell apart, the school failed financially, and they deeded the school to the state to help with agricultural and mechanical needs related to Reconstruction.
While imagining all this, I went inside for a drink and came back out. Some students were serendipitously gathered around the pond singing “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross” and the words resonated in my soul. It struck me powerfully that there was no way those who experienced what must have felt like a miserable failure of the church could have imagined that 150 years later, a thriving institution of 25,000 students, some of who sang “in the cross be my glory ever” as part of active religious life on campus, would be here because of what they tried to do.
When we take up the cross, we don’t have a snapshot of where it will lead 150 years later. In fact, we rarely see results. Moses did not get to set foot in the Promised Land, Abraham never saw the descendents as numerous as the stars, and Mary never met the generations that would call her blessed. We don’t get the glory, and rarely do we even see a glimpse of it. One of the deepest mysteries of the body of Christ is that our glory is in taking up the cross, and we trust God for the trajectory of where that might lead. God just might use us, in times of failure and perceived failure, for something wonderful. I had some amazing time of meditation, looking back over the decisions of my past and considering the decisions of my future, with all my failures and burdens, and pondering those of our church. I had a blessed time of putting it all in God’s hands, trusting God for the trajectory, for the “fruit that will last” if we would simply abide in him while we take up the cross. Faith is believing in what you can’t see.