Guess What I Heard 54 Hours before Bid Day
by Justin Westmoreland
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
For as the earth brings forth its sprouts,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to sprout up before all the nations.
In the beginning of my third year leading Reformed University Fellowship at the University of Oklahoma, I was asked to speak to freshmen girls in the middle of recruitment for one of the major events of their college lives, Rush. In the two days leading up to hearing me speak, these students had moved into their dorm rooms and attended party after party—filled with meeting and greeting, evaluating and being evaluated. Two days after hearing me speak, they would receive bids, descend one of our freshmen towers, be greeted by friends and family, and trek over to their new home away from home—a mansion in a college town where a party awaited them. New friendships (from real, enduring ones to strictly facebook friends) would begin to form. These girls would put on Greek letters and soon be initiated into this or that sorority.
I love OU students’ enthusiasm for life. I love the leadership and giftedness of these students, but as I stood before the hundreds of girls to preach from Isaiah 61:10-11, I paused for a brief moment—which feels like an eternity when you are standing in front of people holding a microphone. I paused because I wanted to look into the girls’ hearts, so I looked at their faces. I paused and I listened. I listened and heard a beating. The beating was loud from all over that room. It was deafening, like a giant cacophony of “pick me… pick me… pick me… pick me” coming from everywhere. These girls’ insecurities (even in their apparent security) were beating forth loudly—their simple desire to be picked, to be desirable, and to be beautiful. I do not know how many of you are trained to use a stethoscope (not me), but as an RUF campus minister with eight years of experience, I can tell you that every college student’s heart, both believer and skeptic, sounds the exact same. It sounds, “Pick me… pick me… pick me.”
It was 54 hours from judgment day, ahem, bid day, for these girls. Not only did I hear that beating from all around me, but what profoundly surprised me was that I heard a beating sound also from within me. This beating was also the beating of a heart. It was my heart, and the surprising thing is that it also sounded like a voice. If I slowed the voice down and listened carefully, I could hear it saying almost audibly, “Pick me… pick me… pick me.” My heart is identical to those to whom I sought to minister. Maybe the reality that my heart sounds exactly the same as a room full of 18-year-old girls bodes well for my longevity in campus ministry, but it is important for more than just comic relief. I do not need a bid day to feel the pressure.
Bid day at OU is merely an exaggerated manifestation of the shadows in which we live. It is not often that we live in the light of the cross, but we live in the shadows of always feeling like we are being judged. At my best, I wanted each and every freshman girl to be converted and always feel secure in the love which Jesus has for her. I wanted them to know that He would dress them all in the robes of righteousness and garments of salvation. At my worst, I wanted them to like me and tell me that they had no idea how they managed to make it through 18 years of life without hearing my preaching. Somewhere in the middle but closer to the worse end of the spectrum, I desperately wanted each of them to, as my heart said, pick me! I wanted to be liked.
Before I am to cook up the Gospel and feed Christ to others and teach others to cook up the Gospel and feed Christ to others, I need to taste the cake. I need to experience the sauce, but how can I do that if I am not listening to the same sin in my heart that I seek to remedy with Christ? So I had a choice to make. I had to either let the droning of their hearts go on and let my heart add to that chorus of pick me’s, or I could listen to something else. Only then, like a good friend who has discovered a wonderful new song on Pandora, could I share it.
So as my heart kept beating insecurely and sweat was beading up and my mouth was getting dry, I meditated on Isaiah 61:10-11 where God promises to clothe His people with the garments of salvation just like a couple on their wedding day would be dressed with jewels and fancy headdresses. In the text, I heard something you can only hear from the pages of scripture. My mind instantaneously traveled forward a few hundred pages to the cross. I heard the agony of Jesus being unclothed and judged for my sins so that I could be rescued from my rebellion, and I heard the heartbeat of God Almighty. It sounded very irregular. It sounded exactly like this, “I picked you… I picked you… I picked you.” And so I listened to this heartbeat, and I shared it.
About 54 hours later, I saw girls running papers that read, “I picked you,” and I could not help but smile. Wow! What a day it will be when all of our 54 hours are spent and we open our bid, and God’s heartbeat for us is open and before our eyes. Faith will become sight: “I picked you… I picked you… I picked you.” And we all will sincerely and thankfully say back to Jesus, “I pick you!”