I call Heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
If I was her Grandpa, I would be stinking proud of her.
Rev. Martyn Ballestero
I have no sure way to know if my grandpa would be proud of me. My daddy’s father, Rev. M.O. Holt, passed away when I was a toddler. My mom’s father, Rev. Kenneth Raney, went on to meet his reward just a few days before my 16th birthday.
I don’t remember Papaw Holt. But Grandpa Raney was my first pastor, and I intensely longed for his approval. He wasn’t ever one to shower vain praise, and compliments from him were invaluable for their sincerity. Beyond that, maybe it was his tall, erect stature, or the rumbling gravel in his voice, or the years spent swinging my lacy socked feet over the edge of a red upholstered pew as he prayed and preached, Grandpa Raney was a legend to me.
But in the year before he passed, I was struggling. Unfortunately, for some, the awkward missteps of a teenager were worthy of a fair bit of comment. And at his funeral, I chewed the inside of my bottom lip raw wondering how I would ever redeem myself to my hero.
Rev. Martyn Ballestero is an equally heroic bastion of faith to me. There was no way for him to know how much life that one sentence would speak. Given the choice between picking apart everything wrong with my fledgling little blog and planting words of gentle encouragement, he chose life.
Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
I haven’t grown out of the ability to misstep. Some people are blessed with a magnetic attraction for unfortunate events. I know; I am one.
All too often, I meet my mistakes with harshness and self-flagellation. Insomniac nights often find me cringing at long past memories of trivial errors. Even after years of growth and accomplishment, I sometimes still feel that brokenhearted fifteen-year-old wondering how to make things right.
You nor I can change the past. Our mistakes, big or small, are part of our story of grace just as irrevocably as our successes. Yet, it seems only the former are worthy of dredging up and reliving over and over and over again. I can’t tell you the last time I lay awake, haunted with the memory of my 8th grade awards night. I haven’t found myself endlessly rehashing the incredible moment I cradled both my boys in my arms for the first time.
But the day I flipped face first from casually sitting on a metal bar onto a concrete sidewalk in front of my crush at age 14? That one has come up at 2 am. Never mind that my then crush turned out to be a Class A goober. I will regret hooking those Steve Madden flip flops under that bar for the rest of my life.
During commercial preflight gibberish, as forcibly smiling flight attendants direct an awkward series of charades, we’re instructed what to do in case the oxygen masks fall through the ceiling. As I recall, you’re required to put on your own mask prior to anyone else’s, even if you’re traveling with small children.
This goes against my mother’s heart. My babies should be first! They should get my best!
And I have the same priorities with my speech.
My son spills his milk: I set aside my frustration to forgive him and identify how we can prevent it from happening again.
I spill the milk: Immediate criticism for clumsiness, distraction, and overall ineptitude.
Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
We strive to speak life to our children, our spouses, our colleagues, and our friends. We would never tear down our loved ones as viciously as our inner monologues do. Article after article espouses the virtues of using positive language in our relationships. Yet the smallest error in ourselves results in acidic retribution from our own tongue.
You cannot speak life into another while choosing death for yourself.
Thank goodness, I’m no longer 15. Nearly the same length of time has passed since those gawky days.
But there will always be people who choose not to speak life to us.
In this post about fear, we read about King Herod’s assault against Christians in the book of Acts. In addition to killing and imprisoning several heroes of the early Church, the local Roman government and the Sanhedrin’s persecution drove members out of largely commune-style living in Jerusalem to surrounding areas.
In fleeing persecution, early Christians were following the edict of the Great Commission:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Herod Agrippa I might have intended oppression. But God intended evangelism.
But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
There will be people that speak maliciously, intending ruin and hurt. But you have the power to choose. Their words can impede you, or they can inspire you. You can choose life.
There have been times where I continued to slog doggedly on, solely to prove wrong those who whispered against me so long ago. Deep in my spirit, a fire burned, sometimes feebly, to be more than their words predicted.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame […]
Hebrews 12: 1&2
Sometimes the weight that besets me is the negative litany that plays in my head. But when I’ve gone as far as I think I can make it, there’s Jesus who’s run this road before me. For every voice, internal and external, that undervalues my worth and disparages my effort, there’s a witness in heavenly stands cheering for me.
One of them is my grandpa.