January 21, 2019 G. Scott Patterson

Selective Hearing

Selective Hearing

Summer Church Camp was one of my favorite things to do. Back in the day (as they say), it was what church kids looked forward to – a week away from their parents (except my dad was usually on staff), half-camping, swimming, games, bunches of other kids – almost none of them knew you, so you were just “you.” No one knew any different. 

We were living in Ohio and I was at Round Lake Christian Camp. I was probably 9 or 10 years old when this particular story took place. If you were never a church camp goer, let me tell you what it used to be like. On Sunday night, one of the first activities was to divide up into “families.” For the rest of the week, whatever you did, you did with your family – eat together, go to classes together, play sports together, whatever … including “talent night” (or something similar).

At one of our first family meetings, our leaders were telling us the plans for the week. To a 9 year old boy, it sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher, until, that is, I heard my name and the leader say, “And you, Scott, are going to be our drummer!” (At least that’s what I THOUGHT she said!)

“WOW!” I thought to myself, “How did she know? Is it that obvious? I mean, I’ve always WANTED to be a drummer, but I’ve never actually played the drums. I’ve certainly put down some rad beats on the chairs I’ve sat in. Clearly, the word is out that somewhere inside of me is an awesome drummer and this Christian Camp leader has the spiritual gift of discernment and prophecy!” (Yes, I was quite mature for a nine-year old boy and had an exceptional vocabulary.) 

In the middle of thinking this to myself, I managed to say, “Sure” in a tone that was agreeable without revealing my elation. My family leader told me that we would be meeting at (sometime) that evening in the chapel (where the drum set was, I was sure!); it was during free time, but hey, I would gladly give up my free time to be the drummer! All the other kids would think I was cool (much cooler than I really was) because I was the drummer! This was going to be the best summer camp ever!

When I arrived at the chapel on Monday evening, during free time for most everyone else, there were no other musicians or instruments to be found. No drum set was on the stage. Instead, kids were on stage doing some kind of skit. Imagine my surprise, my disappointment, my utter grief at agreeing to forfeit my free time every evening for the rest of the week when I said to my leader, “I thought you said I was going to be the drummer?” and she replied, “No, I said I wanted you to be in the drama.” Remember, I was a nine-year-old boy who had less than zero interest in being in a drama. Fail.

Have you ever THOUGHT you heard something only to find out it wasn’t what was said at all? (If you’ve been married for any length of time or have kids, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.) Some people call it “selective hearing” (which is really a thing, but not the thing I’m talking about). Sometimes we hear only what we want to hear, or what we HOPE to hear (as was the case that fateful summer camp). 

We do that with Jesus. “We” only hear what we want to hear (sometimes) or hear what we hope to hear. But Jesus was very clear about what He calls us to. In Matthew 4, Jesus calls His first disciples and He simply says to them, “Follow Me.” (Matthew 4:19) Jesus does not tell them to follow the Law (what they had been doing), or follow a set of guidelines, rules, principles, political platform, 5-point doctrine, human wisdom, ancient writings … or anything else, just Him. Just Jesus. (See what I did there?)

It is easy for me to mishear (worse as I get older, but not the case when I was nine – and certainly not an excuse when it comes to reading words out of the Bible!). I want Jesus to give me a checklist (preferably with lots of latitude for my own personal discretion). But He doesn’t and He didn’t; He told me to follow Him. One thing. One simple thing. One simple, yet very hard thing, for me at least, to do: just follow Him.