Sunday, May 06, 2007

BLOG CHALLENGE: the power of words

For the last 8 weeks, I've been teaching the high school girls' class at Fortress Church on Sunday afternoons. It's hard to know what to teach sometimes, because the level of Bible knowledge and life experience is so vastly different among the girls in attendance. Some of them have been in Sunday School their whole lives, and know many, many Bible stories. Others can't tell you how many days the great flood lasted, or who betrayed Jesus, or who killed Goliath. Still, they come. They want to be there - I know this because they make sure they're ready when the van comes to pick them up each week - and for whatever reason, God put me there to minister to them. Some days I do an adequate job; most days, I fail to reach them at all. At least it seems that way. Reaching out to teens who are often angry, troubled, belligerent and disrespectful is exhausting work. I often feel completely and totally inadequate to do the job. I look up at the clear Texas sky, throw my arms in the air, and demand of God, "WHAT? You tell me. You led me to this place, and I still don't know WHY. I SUCK at this. When will it get easier? When will I start making a difference?"

For reasons I may never fully understand, girls who come from the inner city neighborhood in which Fortress resides are hard. They're bitter. They're distrustful. They're unwilling. They're cold. Every Sunday, the same old barriers are there. They fiddle with their cell phones, they spin in their chairs, they turn their back on me when I talk, they look at their feet, they mock me when I try to engage them. Every week, when we walk in and sit down, I must break through that barrier. Some weeks it's easy. Other weeks, especially if there's a new kid in class, or a particularly tough one who doesn't come often, the other girls follow her lead and stubbornly refuse to participate. It's heartbreaking to me. I so desperately want to reach them, to build relationships with them. Sometimes their silence is more discouraging than their snarkiness.

Today, I was prepared to teach a lesson about the power of words - how God created the world with a word. ("Let there be light.") How Jesus performed miracles with a word. ("Peace, be still.") ("Take up your mat and walk.") And how the words WE say are powerful in their own right. This week, we were going to talk about the positive power of words, and how the Bible tells us to use words to encourage and uplift one another. We were going to exercise those commands by writing notes of encouragement to people at Fortress... and to the people closest to us. We would spend the hour identifying the people in our lives and how to best bless them with our words.

But only one girl came today. I was disappointed. I was so eager to teach the class, and had spent time in prayer while I prepared it, something I'm ashamed to admit I rarely take time to do. In the end, we decided to combine the boys and girls class, and my lesson will wait for next week.

In the meantime, I was blessed with words from my friend Dale. In the adult class he taught (before the kids arrive for youth worship), he referenced Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength." What is it that you're trying to do yourself? he asked. I admitted that in my weight loss journey, I have never once asked for God's help. Not once. I spend a lot of time asking him for other stuff... all KINDS of stuff, some of it seemingly insignificant in the long haul. I spend a lot of time just talking to Him. (God is COOL like that. I love that I can just bust out talking to Him. I've even been known to say "sucks" and "crap" in my conversations with Him, and while I'm sure it makes Him cringe, He listens anyway. 'Cause, you know. He's REAL, and He's cool like that. But I digress.)

Later, during lunch, Dale approached me and said, "I have to tell you. I was really surprised to hear you say that you've never asked God to help you with your weight loss. I mean, that really surprises me. I think of you as such a spiritual giant." At that, I fell into him, laughing. "Oh DALE. Dale, Dale Dale. Bwahahahaha!"

He laughed a little too, and said, "I'm serious!"

"Spiritual GIANT? You are SO wrong about me. Bwahahahaha." I rattled off some story about how I've often asked God to help me not poop my pants (don't ask. Or ask if ya wanna. lol), 'cause I know He's not too small to make that happen. Or more accurately, He's not too BIG. And yet, 'tis true. I've never asked Him to help me lose the weight. Then I beat a hasty retreat to the other side of the room to compliment Frankie on her new haircut. Dale was making me uncomfortable.

But his words were POWERFUL. I've let them roll hither and yon in my head all day long. "Spiritual Giant." I know it's an exaggeration, but oh, how encouraging it is to think that someone whom *I* consider to be gentle, kind, patient, loving, joyful, good... well, you understand. Could it be that I'm not the wretch I think I am? If someone who knows me as well as Dale knows me considers me.... wow. Just wow. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle of how he perceives me and how I perceive myself.

Whatever. The point is - and I do have one, lol - is this:
Words are powerful. They can be powerfully positive, or powerfully negative. I'm more excited than ever to teach next week's class. Between now and then, I'll be mailing each girl on my class roll a note. With words. Powerful words. I can't wait.

the challenge:
Words can be powerful. Think of an occasion when someone blessed you with their words. (Conversely, words can be powerfully hurtful, too. Write about one of those instances if you must, but try to think of a positive memory instead.) Describe the circumstances surrounding the words that were powerful to you. Who said it? How did you react? How does it afffect you today?When I was in 6th grade, my teacher told me that I was a gifted writer, and that someday she'd be reading my books. I hate to admit that I've disappointed her, for though I still love to write, I've never had the guts to try to get published. Even so, her words were a powerful encouragement to me. It was because of those words that I entered writing contests in high school and college. In some way, I'm sure it was those words that made it okay in my head for me to write a blog. She probably has no idea how powerful those few little words were to me, and how I still remember them all these years later. But that's not even what I blogged about for this challenge.I can't wait to read the powerfully positive words you have to share!


Kris with a K said...

Words are certainly powerful, Stace, and you have a gift with them. I can see why God placed you with these challenging girls...your words and your life force will reach them. Even when you can't see it. Hugs!

Tonya said...

I smile as I read your post today and think of some of the conversations we have had. You are amazing Stacy. You have a wonderful gift with words and God is working miracles because of you everyday. The work and heart you put into Fortress is blessed by God and he couldn't have picked a better person for it. I've only met a few of the girls, but their lives are changed for the better because of you and your words of encouragment and support. We are all truly blessed to have you in our lives.