Our Lives on Display
Years ago, I would often get the feeling that I was being observed while shopping or standing in line at the coffee shop. I am sure this happens to celebrities all of the time, but with me it was the clerical collar. Pretty girls make eye contact and sometimes actually smiled. Store clerks were extra polite, and on more than one occasion, I noticed people checking out the titles in my book basket at Borders. All this required that I be on my best behavior, and I have to admit that long ago I pretty much stopped wearing a clerical collar.
I am reminded of a similar experience as related by Baroness Isak Dinesen who lived on a farm in the highlands of Nairobi and wrote about her life in the classic entitled, Out of Africa. She told about her house boy, named Kitau. After three months he asked her one day to give him a letter of recommendation to his old friend, Sheik Ali Ben Salim.
She did not want him to leave just when he had begun to become a valuable employee, so she offered him a raise. He said he was not leaving to get more money, but that he had made up his mind to become either a Christian or a Muslim.
For this reason, he had come to work three months in the Baroness’ household to see the ways and habits of Christians. He would now work for three months in the Sheik’s home to observe the ways and beliefs of Muslims. Then he would decide.
“My heavens,” exclaimed the Baroness as she contemplated what “message” he might have taken from her life and ways, “why didn’t you tell me?
The idea of being observed with our lives on display is not a comforting thought for most of us. Americans place a high value on privacy and independence. Christ, on the other hand, placed a high value on fellowship, service, and community. We are torn between two worlds. To lay hold of one means letting go of the other. It means “walking the walk” now that we have learned to “talk the talk.”