I don’t think I’ll ever get used to preaching. I feel like I kickboxed and then did barre and then lifted weights back-to-back for hours. That said, there is something thrilling about sensing the Holy Spirit coursing through your body, pouring love into your heart that you just want to share with everyone. An honor. A taste of Eternity.
Kate says: respect.
I feel beads of sweat pop up on my forehead as the students began sharing. In the moment I’m not sure if it is the combination of 95-degree heat and the heaviness of my straightened hair spilling down my back, the fact that I am supposed to preach with no manuscript as directed by the Spirit, or fear than an argument will erupt and derail the whole evening.
The tense muscles in my neck turned out to be unnecessary. Those young people expressed themselves far more gently than we, the adults in their lives, have often chosen to.
Last week our county health department issued a mask mandate, and reactions have been mixed, to say the least. While I do believe it was important for us to allow space for discussion, I was also ready to run away. The day before the order came down, I was cussed out by a stranger while buying supplies for youth gathering because I had a mask on. Another trip to the store a few days later and I witnessed a man reach toward a woman in an attempt to rip the mask off of her face. Part of me doesn’t want to leave my house, because anger weighs down the air all around, and I can hardly take the heaviness.
Today I read these words:
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
– Ephesians 4:31-5:2
This is who and how we are to be if we claim the name of Christ. I don’t think Paul could have spelled it out more plainly. Live in love. We simply don’t have the right to be nasty to anyone. Choosing to be anything other than respectful, recognizing the imago dei in each person, is sin.
I’m convicted. My heart squeezes and turns within me. While I’m not a screamer, and my days of arguing about things online are behind me, I know I don’t always live in love. I know there is a new level of gentleness and grace that God is calling me to. This doesn’t mean compromising on my convictions or the truth of the Gospel. But it does mean, no matter how deep the disagreement goes, that I don’t get to indulge the arrogant, snotty voice in my mind that likes to judge others as ridiculous and stupid.
The voice that sounds remarkably like my own.
I strive to be a person of integrity and honesty. I’m learning to stop hiding or smoothing things over. I desire to speak plainly and openly. But I don’t want to add to the noise. I want to slow down, to possess a soft tongue, to be an inviting presence.
I choose respect.