Sunday, January 18, 2009

{Cheers from me, too}

After reading LPM Blog, I was so so struck by what Melissa was saying.
Cheers to the doer!

Hey Ladies, It's Melissa! Have I mentioned how amazing you all were in giving so many tips for my budget? I will report more about this soon! For now, I came across this lengthy quote by Theodore Roosevelt, the twenty-sixth American President, and for some reason it brought tears to my eyes. There is a good chance you have already heard it or read it but I think it is worth reading multiple times. It goes like this:
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without effort or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with these cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.” (1910)
In truth I know very little about the life of Theodore Roosevelt and actually am not even sure of the precise context of this quote but I think the gist of what he is saying is pretty clear. And I think it has a general message that could apply to many situations. Now, I realize I am a little boyish in the sense that I love battle imagery. If you’re an all pink lady, this quote may not be for you. For those of you who are still with me here, the reason I love this quote is because it reminds me a lot of the criticism that sometimes fills our pews. You see, I spent a lot of my time in college and graduate school critiquing the methods of various bible teachers, pastors, and writers. Criticism is the name of the game in most academic institutions and rightly so. It is quite appropriate in those contexts. The difficult thing about studying the Bible in an academic institution is that it invades your entire life…I mean you can’t even escape your field of study when you are sitting at church trying to get a breath of fresh air. This makes for an interesting dilemma. As I would sit through various sermons I would think to myself, “Oh no! Gasp, a topical sermon, but wait, I only approve of expository preaching.”…“Did he/she teach that text appropriately?” “Was that even in the right context?” “Well, he/she obviously has never read this passage”… “Is this worship song really fit to be sung in these hallowed corridors?”
Now I am not saying that these are bad questions to be asking per se, but simply explaining my personal situation. Well, interestingly, it was about that time that I got so fearful to even lead a small group Bible Study in fear that I would pronounce something wrong or spread heresy. And God forbid, that someone would say I just wasn’t a very good teacher/leader. I had apparently sat with my arms crossed during one too many sermons. You see, the more I sat under teachers, pastors, and worship leaders with the goal of sizing them up, the more fearful/timid I was becoming to even serve in a very small ministry capacity.
The Lord has done a great work to change my heart over the years. He has done it through His Word. Frankly, I think I was becoming a modern-day Pharisee. The first time I became fearful of who I was going to become was when I was at a church in Grad school and immediately after the sermon a man (who apparently took great pride in having been to Seminary) rushed up to the Pastor and “proved” to him that he preached one of his points wrongly. The dude didn’t even thank the Pastor for his wonderful message. Nothing. Just criticized him for something so trivial and silly. I was for sure “dumber”. Yet wiser. Because I saw a vision of whom I could become. I mean, easy for this dude to sit back and wait for the Pastor to slip while this faithful man had to get up and preach in front of thousands of people. He had prepared all week for a man to immediately rush up to him with a pointed finger in the biblical text. Sounds like something you would hear Jesus condemning in the Gospels, doesn’t it?
I have come to realize what a miracle it is for the Lord to use us in spite of our weaknesses. We are going to make mistakes and dang it, we may even teach a passage of Scripture a tiny tiny little bit out of context at some point. Not because we want to or because we are maliciously trying to lead people astray, but because we are simply human. I am all for being trained to study the Bible. It’s the biggest passion in my life, but the truth is, we still just see through a mirror dimly. We don’t see fully yet. The truth is we may study and study and study, and then get something slightly wrong. Or think about this- maybe we are teaching a Sunday school class and we got all the doctrine/theology down perfectly, but our delivery wasn’t smooth. In fact, it sounded terrible. Well, the glorious thing is that the Lord uses the truth we taught anyway. And maybe we’ll improve the eloquence of our delivery the next time. I love it. I really do. Our fears of not getting it all right should never keep us from serving faithfully.
I just want to give a shout out- a toast of sorts- to all of you women who will serve tomorrow morning in your various congregations in spite of your fear of not being perfect and polished. You are putting yourself out there for the sake of the body of Christ- you may be bloody and bruised, but you’re in the ring, right? Sorry about the sports metaphor, pink ladies…lucky for you- I am done ranting.
CHEERS to “the doer, not the mere critic- the man who actually does the work, even if roughly and imperfectly, not the man who only talks or writes about how it ought to be done” (Roosevelt, 1891). For, “Criticism is necessary and useful; it is often indispensable; but it can never take the place of action, or be even a poor substitute for it. The function of the mere critic is of very subordinate usefulness. It is the doer of deeds who actually counts in the battle for life, and not the man who looks on and says how the fight ought to be fought, without himself sharing the stress and the danger.” (Roosevelt, 1894

Man that's good stuff. I love her passion.
Love, Tonia
Challenge for the week: Do you know your child's Sunday School Teacher? Does he/she work? Do they have kids of their own? Find out and send them a card this week! Say thank you for the investment they are making in YOUR child's life.

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