Unfortunately, our adventure began in a flurry of missed buses and racing hearts and feet as we showed our true tourist-colors in a strange land (with strange street names, bus stops and interpretations of time).
Never mind, though, because we landed at the dock before the ferry took its leave and were quickly ushered toward our waiting tour group and its lively, remarkably patient leader…
The first thing Tonino did was place a sticker on each of us (literally – he stuck stickers on our shirts, just like in kindergarten). Remember those notes to your mother being safety-pinned onto your jacket before the bell rang? There was only one word on the sticker, and as we looked around, we saw that everyone was wearing one. Everyone in our tour group, anyways. On a white background in bold red letters was the name of our guide: Tonino.
I had to giggle. Seriously?! But as the boarding process began and we saw just how many other tour groups were heading to the same small destination, the stickers made a lot more sense.
Tonino’s welcoming comments included a tutorial on how to follow the leader, which could have been a real challenge since he himself was rather short. How would we be able to see him in the gathering crowd? Thank goodness for tall umbrellas! When Tonino held his blue umbrella in the air, we knew which way to go – even in the mass of tourists.
The day was perfect! (Almost) rainless. Relaxing. Breathtaking (particularly the drive to Anacapri, with its crazy-winding roads and cliff-side bridges). Every time we were to move together as a group, the blue umbrella was lifted high and our seasoned leader would shout out (loudly) the word on our stickers – his name…
Tonino made an impression on us. So much so, that for the remainder of the trip, every time a family member was ready to move on and wanted the rest of us to follow, we would hear a loud ‘Tonino!’ and immediately we knew what it meant (even if we opted out of obedience to the call).
What made Tonino effective as a guide speaks volumes to me about Kingdom living…
The church needs guides just like a group of nervous travelers needs a leader – someone who has been where we are going and knows which interesting sites to point out along the way. Someone who can avoid the potholes and navigate the quirky roads and seas. Someone who can give advice on where to eat and how much change you will need to gain entrance to the public restroom. Someone who can prepare you for what is coming, making your experience less frustrating and more fruitful.
The church needs guides who will boldly wear the Name of Jesus on their t-shirts and shamelessly holler – cross raised high! – to get our attention and to keep us together from point A to point B. Leaders who will make it possible for all of us to participate, not assuming that we already know everything about our common destination. Tonino did this at every important juncture, clearly laying out the schedule and pointing out the route so that all would make it back to the bus or the boat – so that no one would be left behind.
The church is in need of leaders who will patiently travel with us in groups, even though they know enough and are confident enough to venture out on their own. Because not all of us are ready to face this adventure alone! There is real comfort and peace in knowing that someone is looking out for you. Some of us can’t read a map to save our lives, and some of us should never EVER get behind the wheel of a car and drive up (or down) a seaside cliff, even if the view at the top is more glorious than any we’ve ever seen before.
Now, before you accuse me of advocating for too much hand-holding in the faith-life of God’s family, it’s important that you know what happened after the tour ended that day.
We knew how to get to the marina.
We knew how much a ticket would cost and where we would like to sit next time on the cruise from the mainland.
We knew that the uphill trip to Anacapri would be our preferred destination, and we knew which cafe to eat at again because… YUM!
Our guided tour had given us the confidence and the tools to be able to venture out on our own in the future, because our guide had completed his work with flying colors – or should I say, with blue umbrella in hand?!
Not all of us are called to lead – and that is by design.
And if you are called to lead – stickers are optional, but grace and patience and empathy are not.
If you have even a hint of Tonino inside, and if you have an umbrella handy and know how to use it, I’m pretty sure there are openings in a family of faith near you. Channel that energy and ability our way!