School starts tomorrow. It’s crazy to think how much planning, anticipation and build up centralizes on the first day. This particular first day is special because I can’t think of it without remembering the first day last year. Around this time a year ago, (confession: it wasn’t quite on the first day of school, I wasn’t that organized yet) this hot mess of a long-term sub made each student take out a clean sheet of paper and date the top.
I showed the class the two rings that I wear on my pinky finger and explained to them that they were my great grandmother’s wedding bands. She was married twice and widowed twice. She lived to be 96 years old, and on her gravestone it reads “Lela Hodnet 1901-1997”. Her entire life, 96 years, is documented in that tiny dash between her birth and death years. That little dash withholds a very full and rich 96 years! I then asked the kids what their dash is going to withhold.
Maybe it’s a tall order to ask 12-14 year olds to start thinking about what they want to have said of them at their funeral, but I think it’s important that everyone is living on purpose and not just letting life happen. So I asked anyway.
The nuggets wrote down the words they want to describe them, and I collected the papers and kept them tucked away for a year. This week I’m putting them all in envelopes so that I can give them back to their owners. The same question will be on each student’s paper:
Are you closer to becoming this person today than you were this time last year?
I’m excited to do the same thing with my new crew first thing tomorrow.
I suppose what sparked this idea in the first place was thinking what I would want to be said of me. It’s an interesting question, and is one that I’ve been mulling over for years now. No matter how many eloquent, thought-provoking or hyphenated words I can come up with, I keep settling back on the same ones that come from Acts 4. Click here to read along:
Here’s the scene…
Jesus has just ascended back into Heaven in Acts 1 and his parting words to the believers were these: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8
Jesus is pretty much saying: I’m out of here for a while; it’s on y’all to tell people about me now! Go time.
So in chapter 4, Peter and John are up in the temple telling people about Jesus and the priests, captain of the temple and the Sadducees saw them and they were ‘greatly annoyed’. You see, this council of religious guys was the holy-roller group. They had a reputation for being superior to everyone else when it came to religious stuff. They did all the right things and turned their nose up toward anyone they deemed spiritually ‘low-cast.’ Not exactly the guys you want to grab coffee with.
Read on down to vs. 7. Here, this group of religious elitists call out Peter and John, essentially saying, “who do y’all think you are?” Peter’s response (vs. 8-12) says it all.
Boom roasted. Tell em’ bout it, Peter!
Please note in vs. 13 the mental processing of the council… “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and recognized that they were ordinary, unschooled men, they were astonished, and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”
Read on down to vs. 20 Peter responds saying, “… as for us, we cannot help speaking of what we have seen and heard”
Why? Because Peter and John are average guys, just like the rest of us. All too often I get caught up in thinking that I’m not quite this or that, or I’m not as holy, spiritual, committed as _________________. And no matter how many discipline, self-control diet type plans I set, sister just can’t get it right. Been there?
Here’s the good news: That’s not how our God and his gospel work. He is the one who qualifies us. He is the one who makes us spiritually worth a dime. He is the one who validates and empowers us. It’s not about what I do or say, or how many good deeds I do, or bad deeds I don’t do. Jesus and his gospel far surpass any amount of knowledge, schooling or social status I could ever achieve for myself. He uses all types of hot mess ragamuffins. And all the ordinary folks said, amen!
So, THIS is what I would like to be said of me: She was ordinary and unschooled, (God bless Arkansas) but it was clear as day that she had been with Jesus. And she couldn’t shut up about him. Yes Lord, may I be one who cannot help but speak of what I’ve seen and heard.
Now how do I get there? Well, call me simplistic, but if I want to be known as one who had been with Jesus, sounds like I need to get to being with him. I need to prioritize spending time with Jesus… reading the Bible to learn more about him, spending time in prayer to him, asking other people about what he’s done for them. And how about the whole ‘can’t help but speak of what I’ve seen and heard’ thing? Here’s how I see it: You can’t hide what you love; Music junkies talk about music, SEC folks talk about SEC sports (with unparalleled confidence) fashionistas talk about fashion; it’s not hard to figure out what people love. Likewise, may lovers of the Lord talk about the Lord. Theoretically, this should be as natural as anything else we talk about. It’s funny though, we will talk about anything under the noonday sun to keep someone from feeling ‘awkward’. That is so socially tactful of us! But last time I checked, not one girl has been half as concerned about me feeling awkward as I’ve been about her feeling awkward. So, if it’s what I say I’m about, figure I should be talking about it.
So here are the questions of the week:
What do you want to be said of you? And what are you doing to get there?
Would love to hear your answers! Let me know…
Here’s to laughin’ at our ordinariness and the extraordinary gospel of Jesus,