It’s not often that I feel a kinship with an animal photo, but see this picture of Dr. Stanley’s? That’s me on the left. At least it’s the way I often feel when attempting to share the gospel with friends or family. For the most part, they’re indifferent, no matter how confident or enthusiastic I am. And sometimes they just want to leave as fast as possible.
When I first saw the image, a caption occurred almost audibly in my head—in Latin, of all things: Vox clamantis in deserto. Which means “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Yes, it can feel pretty lonely out there.
You might wonder why that foreign phrase is stored in my memory. I mostly have Rhode Island’s Classical High School to thank. When I attended, one of the graduation requirements was Latin, which I enjoyed learning but subsequently found to be only minimally useful. Sure, a few prefixes and root words came to my rescue on the SATs and an occasional crossword puzzle, but in half a century, there’s been not a single opportunity to practice conversation. In fact, aside from e pluribus unum, just about the only time I use the language is in deciphering family crests or institutional slogans.
When a seed is planted, it has potential to germinate—sometimes after lying dormant for years.
At Brown University, for example, I regularly encountered its insignia proclaiming In Deo Speramus (“In God We Hope”). And with friends nearby at Harvard and Dartmouth, I also often ran into Veritas (“Truth”) and Vox Clamantis in Deserto, which I mentioned earlier. Strong proclamations, all of them. Sadly, however (and I say this, judging by my own spiritual indifference back then), it seems the Christian values on which such schools were founded have lost relevance for students frequenting those hallowed halls.
But I suspect not totally.
During my college days, I hadn’t yet discovered Truth or hope in God and certainly didn’t realize the “voice crying out” had anything to do with John the Baptist (Isa. 40:3; John 1:23). But when a seed is planted, it has potential to germinate—sometimes after lying dormant for years. Who knows how many seeds sown in my past contributed to the good news finally taking root?
Likewise, as testifiers of Christ, we never know when a kernel of truth will begin to sprout. Or where: Even if the person we hope to impact remains unaffected, our message could resonate with someone who overhears. Look at the picture again. Notice anything about that crowd of departing flamingos? One beak is turned back toward the proclaimer—like a Nicodemus, who watched, listened, and then secretly sought Jesus out to learn more (John 3:1-2). That encourages me.
As testifiers of Christ, we never know when a kernel of truth will begin to sprout.
And so I keep testifying, as does the lonely pink bird—with or without measurable results. Because, while I may never find out the who, when, or where, God knows just how to use my words and opportunities in Christi Gloriam. That’s the motto Harvard adopted in place of Veritas for nearly 200 years: “For the Glory of Christ.”