river sought to be in the employ of the queen.”
So read the notice. And at the posted day and time, many showed to test their talent. The course was laid out, round the edge of a ravine, through a stream, up the steep hill to the tent where the royal court assembled to welcome and assess each contestant. A crowd gathered to watch the competition, which quickly took on the feeling of a carnival. Pennants flew, vendors offered food and drink, and supporters stood in clusters ready to cheer their champions on.
After a vigorous morning of trials, the applicant pool was narrowed down to just four, and the crowd reapportioned their loyalties to the noble quartet, each of whom was exceptionally well qualified.
The first completed the course in record time, and took the steep hill so quickly that the coach nearly overturned, but his expert horsemanship won the moment and, with much creaking of springs, the righted coach finished the steep path to the top.
The second shaved off a few seconds from the previous run as it splashed noisily through the stream. Wide swaths of water glistened in the afternoon air as the soaked carriage emerged on the other side. Without further incident, it too arrived, greeted by cheers at the hilltop tent.
The third was the most daring of them all: it took the hillside in a flash, the stream in a splash, but the crowd went wild when it veered so close to the ravine’s edge that one wheel temporarily hung suspended in air and time before settling down with a crash on solid ground. Surely this crowd pleaser would be the winner!
The fourth and final entrant showed extreme professionalism on the challenging course. He took the hill at a good pace without threat of turning over, forded the stream steadily without flourish, and stayed far away from the ravine’s edge. The crowd was visibly disappointed. No drama, no splash, no danger.
The queen herself stepped up to the waiting drivers. And with a nod from her aristocratic head, her spokesman made the selection: he who had come in last. The crowd was underwhelmed. What on earth was going on here?
To the surprised crowd, the spokesman announced: “You marvel at Her Majesty’s selection. But, remember that the notice sought a driver to be in the employ of the Queen, not to be a stunt driver or circus performer. This driver will himself drive the coach carrying her royal personage as she travels the length and breadth of this land. He needs to be so aware of the treasure he transports that he will not take unnecessary chances, not subject her person to unwarranted danger, not risk exposing Her Majesty to compromise. He must realize the preciousness of his cargo, and live in accordance with that truth. The only driver here who seemed to care more about his passenger than about his own reputation and pride is the fourth, and to him the position shall go.”
Why are we, who are honored to carry the Spirit of the living God within, so insistent on living on the very edge of service and commitment? Why is it that we often seem to live our lives with more passion for the world through which we wend our way than for the spiritual goals to which we profess to aspire? Why do we intentionally get as close to the world as we possibly can while still claiming the Living Christ? Why this exhilaration at living on the worldly verge?
Can it be that we care more about our own person and pride than we do about the Spirit within us? More about the roar of the crowd than the approbation of heaven?
The position is posted. How will we then live?
Valerie N. Phillips is the associate director of the women’s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate women for more than 25 years