Remember having to write research papers in college or even high school? There was a pattern. You would get your topic. You’d write your thesis and you’d spend the remaining time looking for information to help you prove that thesis. The thesis was the statement that gave the paper direction. It helped the reader to know where he or she was going.
To research well, you have to have a strong thesis to guide you. To ask good questions, you have to have a thesis that narrows your focus so you can know what to ask. A good paper flows out of a good thesis. The entire success of the paper rides on this one sentence.
Last night, I was talking with a group of friends about using our senses as a tool for research. We each took a moment to imagine a typical day. Each person used their senses as a guide to discover what could be learned about the needs surrounding them.
It was an illusive concept in some ways and the group actually had a tough time with the exercise. Many struggled to visualize potential areas of need. That was, until Susan spoke up. She said, “if I were on a short term mission trip this would be so easy for me. But here, it seems nearly impossible.” Everyone agreed and from that point the conversation changed.
I quickly realized that the missing piece was not the lack of ability to do research, but the missing piece was a lack of direction as to why the research was even needed in the first place. While on a short term mission trip, this group of people knew their thesis statement. It had been given to them in the form of direction and task, along with encouragement. Therefore, it was easier to take notice of and meet the needs of others. Their thesis was easy to remember, constantly before them, and celebrated along the way.
But the notion of looking for the needs of others in every day context seemed a bit challenging. It was not a part of the daily routine nor was it an aspect of personal daily directive. What this group of people needed is what you and I also need, and that is to be reminded of our thesis statement.
As individuals who follow Jesus and his way, we have been given a guiding directive or thesis. It is love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as you love yourself. If you and I were to wake up daily with this as our life’s directive it would change the way we live. This directive is something to put before yourself daily and live like every day is a short term mission experience.
What would it look like for you to wake up and live with that directive constantly before you? How would it change the way decisions are made? People are treated? Or even the things you notice?