As I write, I’m winging my way to my 25th reunion at George Fox University. I happened to graduate in their centennial year, so this is also the university’s 125th anniversary.
I’m looking forward to it for all the typical reasons: seeing old (well, not too old) friends and professors, and seeing improvements to the campus. I’m really looking forward to running the Foxtrot 5k with my brother!
But I get a great bonus for this reunion! I get to perform for the current students in their chapel, in the very auditorium where I saw a one-man play for the first time. Now, performing one-man plays has become a major component of my 21-year career in the performing arts. I don’t know if I’ll inspire anyone to build a career on one-person plays, but I am praying I’ll inspire them to do anything, and go anywhere that the Lord will call them to go.
Here’s how it all went down…
During one of my performances for the students, I walked out into the audience and showed them where I was sitting (I don’t remember the exact seat, but I certainly remember the section) when a chapel speaker called us—the students at the time—to come to the front if we were willing to do anything, and go anywhere that the Lord would call us to go. I sat down in a seat in that section, and then I leaped to my feet! You see, my grandparents had been missionaries to Kenya, so I was ready to go to Timbuktu! But on the way down the aisle (I showed them where it happened), I slowed my pace and said, “Lord, I’m willing to go anywhere, but could you please not make it a big city?” You see, I was raised on a 70 acre farm in Southern Oregon, so I was really intimidated by cities… with more than a few thousand people.
Later in the program, I shared that I now live in New York City, the largest city in North America. Our apartment is a couple of blocks from Times Square—the crossroads of the world. NYC has more Irish than Dublin, more Italians than Rome, more Jewish people than Jerusalem and, I… absolutely love it!
Nathan Herbold, who was on our film crew for a short film I was in, recently filmed a documentary for his church about their pastor, Wilber Boatwright. I told Nathan about one of the highlights of the documentary that struck me the most, and it turned out that it was Nathan who’d made that particular observation to his pastor, who then repeated it in the documentary! Nathan said that the connection came from sitting under his pastor’s teaching. I shared this same insight with the students in the chapel: When Jesus Christ was crucified, the veil in the temple was ripped from the top to the bottom. In that culture, as today in some Jewish communities, a father rips his shirt from top to bottom when his son dies. So God, the Father, was ripping His shirt, and allowing us into the Holies of Holies, from which we had been separated by the temple veil. Only the high priest was allowed into the Holy of Holies once a year. But when God ripped that veil, He invited us to enter into His presence through the death and resurrection of His Son. So here’s what struck me: Nathan observed that we all have veils covering parts of our lives, but when we crucify self—when we die to self—we rip the veil that covers the places in our hearts and minds that we don’t allow anyone to see. When we do that, deep calls out to Deep, and we can finally and truly understand who we were created to be.
I asked the students to consider what the Lord was calling them to do. Throughout the chapel, I performed sketches of Jonah, Gideon and Lazarus, and I pointed out how God asked those people—people like us—to rip the veils in their lives, and do things that were way out of their comfort zones. But you know what, nothing great was ever achieved in a comfort zone. So I challenged them, as I challenge you now: “Step out in obedience, and watch what the Lord can do through you!”
That particular performance happened to fall on another landmark anniversary—the day I proposed to my wife, Joyce. I told the students, “Nineteen years ago from today, I said to my then fiancée, getting down on one knee, ‘Joyce Ann Hansen, will you follow the Lord wherever He calls us?’” I’d identified with that college altar call so much that I worked it into my marriage proposal! Thankfully, she said then (and she did again, from the lighting booth), ‘Yes!’ To the students I said, “Now I have a different kind of proposal for you: If you’re willing to say yes to anything the Lord asks you to do, and are willing to go anywhere that He’ll call you to go, then come on down front; I’d like to pray for you.”
At first there was no movement, but I was raised Evangelical Quaker, so I’m used to silence. I just began praying silently that they would come to a point, someday, where they would be ready to answer that kind of a challenge. Then someone stood. Hurrah! I thought: “We’ll pray over that one.” But then, another person stood, too. I actually thought the second student was making way for the first to get past, but that student started toward the aisle as well. Then more. And more. Suddenly, there was an eruption! Hundreds of students got to their feet and came down front. (I’m weeping right now as I write this.) The students did something that I didn’t ask of them—it didn’t matter that they were packed at the altar or in the aisles; they all knelt, offering themselves to the Great High King.
I thank the Lord, not only for those hundreds who came forward, but also for all of the souls that they’ll touch in the course of their lives and ministries, whether they were called to be pastors, performers or engineers.
What about you?
If you’re ready to say to the Lord that you’ll do anything, and you’ll go anywhere that He’ll call you to go, then stand up. Yeah! Wherever you are, just stand up right now. Let me know what happens in a comment below. I’m praying you can follow through, not in your own strength, but with the anointing from the same God who empowered Jonah, Gideon, and Lazarus to do superhuman things. And I’m praying for the lives you’ll touch with such obedience.
About This Contributor
Actor, Rich Swingle, has lived in New York City for half of his life and with his bride, Joyce Ann Swingle, for about 19 years. They’ve played husband and wife in five films, bringing them 20 screen children! They’ve taught/performed in 28 nations and look forward to where the Lord will call them next. For more information on the Swingles’ plays and films, visit his website, and to receive their updates via email or social media, visit their updates page.