Westmont Magazine Defending the Lentils
Cheryl and I have mixed emotions as our second (and last) child graduates from Westmont. We are saddened to leave the Parents Council after serving for six years, and I will miss my involvement as the parent representative on the board of trustees. On the other hand, the termination of tuition payments softens our sorrow. Overriding all our feelings is a sense of appreciation to our Lord for the work He has done in the lives of our children, Lindsey and Matt, while they lived and learned at Westmont. Of lesser importance is the fact that they are now both employed and living independent of any parental subsidy. Of most importance is their sense of God’s presence and direction in their lives.
Of all the things that we have come to love about Westmont, we believe its greatest attribute is its people. (I must admit, however, that weather came in high on the list. Remember that I’m from Fresno.) We were continually amazed and impressed with the competency, dedication and Christian commitment of the trustees, staff and faculty, who are devoted to Christ and their sense of ministry and mission in the lives of the students. To be sure, Westmont is no impersonal institution. Its pursuit of academic rigor and excellence does not overshadow its Christian calling. At every meeting of the board, trustees pray for students by name and intercede for their physical, social, financial and spiritual needs.
I find it appropriate that the Westmont mascot is a warrior. Our athletic teams are mighty on their respective fields of battle. (Just ask any opponent of our national championship women’s soccer team.) But for me, the warrior mascot will always represent Westmont’s staff and trustees. I consider President Gaede, Chancellor Winter, Provost Mullen, the vice presidents and the rest of the administrative team, along with the board members, to be the real Westmont warriors. I see in them the traits of my favorite Old Testament hero: Shammah, the mighty warrior.
Shammah was a member of King David’s elite fighting force. Here is how 2 Samuel 23:11-12 describes his bravery: The Philistine army gathered at Lehi and attacked the Israelites in a field of lentils. The Israelite army fled, but Shammah held his ground in the middle of the field and beat back the Philistines. So the Lord brought about a great victory.
Bible scholars have determined that the lentil field at Lehi had no particular significance from a strategic military perspective. It was just a field of lentil beans. Maybe that’s why the rest of the Israelite army abandoned their defense of it. To them, it was literally just a hill of beans. But it was something more to Shammah. He saw it as a symbol of what sustained his family. Those lentils represented the sustenance for his wife and children. Conceding the lentil field to the Philistines would compromise the welfare of his family. Consequently, Shammah was not going to budge an inch. He stood firm in the field and stayed engaged in the battle. He was willing to give his life in defense of it because he was defending his family. For him, the lentil field became a sacred battlefield.
In much the same way, the staff and trustees of Westmont are warriors with a sense of divine calling to defend their lentil field. They aren’t beating Philistines back with swords, but they are engaged in an intense battle nonetheless. From all sides, the sacred mission of Westmont College is under attack. The financial pressures are great; the endowment is too small; the present facilities are inadequate; there are challenges with the Master Plan; faculty must be recruited who are both top-rank scholars but also deeply committed Christians; the admissions office deals with balancing the gender ratio and attracting students of diversity while achieving a student body that reflects both mental horsepower and a passion for Christ.
The list of challenges goes on. It would be easy to give up, or at least to make a minor compromise. But all that Westmont stands for is the lentil field. Our students, present and future, are the family members being protected. I know you join me in prayer for the staff and trustees of Westmont. May they not grow weary. May God bless them in the battle because they are defending the lentils.