Spring 2009

Unexpected Grace During Office Hours

By Loren Baker

One of the defining characteristics of Biola’s art department is the strong sense of community that exists among many of our art majors and professors. With the nature of studio art instruction, we get to know one another pretty well.

After leaving Biola, many of our graduates stay in contact, and in the process our roles gradually change. We are no longer their professors; we become their friends. They join us in an extended community of Christian artists where there is fellowship and encouragement — sharing our lives, our hopes, our fears, and the joys and the sorrows that are a part of life. Sometimes I forget just how much of a blessing this can be.

During the academic year, my days are very full. My time is usually split between a myriad of administrative duties, classroom teaching, committee meetings and impromptu advising sessions. There often just doesn’t seem to be enough time during the day to accomplish all of the necessary things. And occasionally there are days when everything just seems to be go wrong.That’s usually when I find myself surprised by God’s providence.

Several months ago I was in the midst of a day that could only be described as chaotic. Besides the usual classes and appointments, there had been an unending line of students queuing up outside my office for mid-semester advising, as well as a series of unplanned interruptions, each requiring immediate attention. I was feeling overworked and somewhat discouraged. The afternoon was almost over and I still had not been able to tackle most of the items on my “to do” list.

I quickly reviewed the rest of my appointment schedule and noticed that a recent graduate of our visual arts program had made a late afternoon appointment to see me. Usually I would have been delighted to spend 45 minutes or so chatting with Jonathan (not his real name) but I still had a pile of student work to grade, e-mails that needed attention and a few tasks that had to be completed before heading home. I would have really liked to reschedule Jonathan’s appointment, but it was too late.

When Jonathan entered my office he immediately began to tell me what was going on in his life. Like many new grads, he was experiencing some of the shifts and adjustments that come with moving from an academic world to one filled with finances, full-time employment and the restructuring of social life.

We talked for a while about these issues and then moved to matters of church and faith. Jonathan has always been unusually sensitive spiritually and soon he was sharing about his recent devotions from the book of Isaiah. While we conversed, I noticed that my spirit was gradually being uplifted. The discouragement and disgruntlement of the day were being replaced by a sense of peace and contentment.

Reflecting on my changed state of mind, I somewhat lost track of what Jonathan was saying, and then he caught my attention by quoting Isaiah 50:4: “The Lord my God has given me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word.” Jonathan continued, “Loren, I believe that the Lord is speaking to me, that God is telling me that I am to speak words of encouragement to those who are worn-down and weary.” Even as he was speaking I realized that Jonathan was God’s provision that afternoon for me at the end of a hectic day. I was being encouraged and filled with renewed sense of purpose.

After Jonathan and I prayed together and he left my office, I was reminded of one of my favorite passages of Scripture, the healing of the blind man in Mark 8. Jesus touches the blind man’s eyes and then asks him what he sees. The man’s response is, “I see men but they look like trees walking around.” Then Jesus touches the man’s eyes a second time and his vision is completely restored. The man sees clearly.

I take great comfort in knowing that, in a like manner, the Lord Jesus Christ, the giver of life, doesn’t just touch our lives once, but continues to touch us over and over in new and unexpected ways. Whether through timely office encounters or the healing of blind eyes, Christ is constantly stepping into our lives, bringing us hope, healing and restoration.

Jonathan’s time in my office that afternoon was one of those unexpected visitations, a gift from the Father of Light, brightening my day and reminding me that “the favor of the Lord” rests upon each of his children and that he has good and perfect gifts to give us each and every day — even the bad and chaotic days, and even when we least expect it.

Loren Baker is a professor of art and chair of Biola’s art department. He holds a Master of Fine Arts from Otis Art Institute.

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  • Kent Twitchell November 28, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    We love you Loren and will miss you until we are all together again. As I look around at the world, maybe that will be soon.

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