What An Opportunity

Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Oceans

In Life on April 7, 2014 at 9:26 pm

oceans.

The waves gently crash on the shore and draw back into themselves

You taught me to love like the tide

Constantly there yet never too much

A tempest, within necessity

Yet, as the tide, gently drawing back into yourself

Spirit lead me

The horizon stands as it always has

You all taught me to endure as the day does

Few moments, in our experiences, capture the extent of our capacity as people

Therefore, there is significance in the mundane and the ordinary

As the horizon approaches everyday, we endure towards our aspirations

Spirit lead me

Now, some say the moon and the torrents are one

Profoundly independent and willingly dependent

The torrent presses as the moon tugs

Held together by the strongest tie

The tie that will steady you and I

Stars may pass but there is only one moon

Spirit lead me

 

In all of this in-between, I pray that we find those people who are the lighthouses in the stormy seas

In all of this, I pray we remember the glorious echoes of Your love and grace as we declare with a resounding chorus:

Spirit lead me

Where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper

Than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior

 

 

Overusing ‘persecuted for their faith,’ and other thoughts on God’s Not Dead

In Culture, Life on March 26, 2014 at 7:06 pm

 

In the film God’s Not Dead (2014), college freshman Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper) accepts a challenge from his teacher, Professor Radisson (Kevin Sorbo), to prove to his classmates there is a chance God exists.

I saw the new movie God’s Not Dead (2014, Pure Flix Entertainment) Monday because my mom wanted to go, and that’s the kind of stuff momma’s boys do (mom 4 life). Afterward, though, I was glad I went.

It was an educational experience, and aside from some of the typical Christian movie cheesiness (if you grew up around the culture, you know exactly what I’m talking about), there were some tremendous, intellectual moments in the classroom scenes.

I’m wiser for having gone, and I encourage you to see it, too. This blog is not meant to discourage you from seeing the movie; it’s meant to fuel conversation.

I could relate with the protagonist’s plight, which is proving to his class that God is real – or, rather, proving that there is reason to even entertain the thought that there is an all-powerful creator. During my first semester of college, I also took an introductory philosophy class at a public university with a dubious-of-Christianity professor similar to the one in God’s Not Dead, and for my final project I chose to defend my belief in God.

In retrospect, it was a poorly developed essay – I read a lot of heavy material in a short amount of time about the second law of thermodynamics, Thomas Aquinas, and the Big Bang, and then I rushed out a paper – and he, being brilliant and well read, easily found the loopholes. (Are you judging me? All freshmen procrastinate, I swear!) I received a mediocre grade. I was proud of having done it, though; it challenged my faith.

So you’ll understand why I respected the protagonist, Josh, and despite the overwhelming obviousness of its appeal to strictly a Christian audience– I cannot picture any of my non-Christian friends attending or enjoying the film – I see immense value in the movie.

My main issue with it came, surprisingly, in the closing credits. At the conclusion of the film, white words scrolled across the screen reading, “This film is dedicated to the following college student groups who were persecuted for their faith,” or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Let’s think about what those words imply: that college students were not free to openly practice their Christianity or praise God at school, or that they received harsh punishment for attempting to do so. It’s a dramatic proposition considering we live in a country that practices freedom of religion (shout-out to Lord Baltimore!), and it’s not one to take lightly.

I perked up and began scrolling the list for my school’s name.

Sure enough, it came right at the end: UB Students for Life vs. SUNY Buffalo.

It made me uneasy. It almost made me mad. It inspired me to write this post.

Christians, it’s time to stop claiming we’ve been “persecuted for our faith” when the phrase does not apply. Persecution is not a light term, and throwing it around flippantly will not benefit us. It’ll make people even more doubtful that this God stuff in which we believe so passionately is credible.

I witnessed the UB Students for Life vs. SUNY Buffalo court case developing. It all started about a year ago, April 2013. Students for Life is an anti-abortion group on my campus, and they are extremely active in promoting their beliefs – which is 100 percent their prerogative.

But many UB students believe they crossed the line last year, when they invited this group called the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform to bring their “Genocide Awareness Project” to campus. The Center set up graphic billboards displaying photos of aborted fetuses and dead bodies from genocides like the Holocaust directly in front of the Student Union – essentially forcing every UB student to look at these horrifying images for two days.

I saw the trucks setting up. My response was immediate: Uh-oh.

As you might imagine, with this happening at the biggest public school in one of the most liberal states in the country, this spurred quite a response. Many students protested the display. There was spirited debate between both sides. Most of it, from what I observed from standing around for a couple of hours each day, was respectful (with, of course, a few exceptions). Here is more coverage from the newspaper for which I work: Anti-abortion display invokes student response.

I took a deep breath when it was over. Thank goodness.

Seven weeks later, though, Students for Life sued UB – not for money, but to force the school to admit it had “violated the constitutional rights” of the club’s free speech by not disbanding the protestors.

UB issued a statement in response: “As a public university, it is a fundamental value of UB that all members of the campus community and their invited guests have a right to peacefully express their views and opinions, regardless of whether others may disagree with those expressions.”

I couldn’t agree more. Being a journalist, I care deeply about the First Amendment. And I believe UB handled the situation properly and certainly did not persecute the group members for their faith.

Again, it was Students for Life’s right to set up their display, but it was also the other students’ right to protest the event – the photos were enough to make you sick to your stomach.

Do you realize the irony of Students for Life suing UB? They essentially said, “UB violated our freedom of speech by allowing other students to have freedom of speech!”

Which brings me back to the movie. These UB students were not persecuted for their faith. Not even close. Remember that I’m speaking from a Christian college student’s point of view.

This phrase – persecuted for their faith – has convicted me since I saw the movie’s credits. Using it in this case is nothing less than propaganda. Most students protested the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform’s event not because they were arguing for abortion rights but because they didn’t want to be forced to stare at horrifying images between classes. Can you really argue with that?

I didn’t want to look at them. I’m guessing you wouldn’t either.

Saying these UB students were “persecuted for their faith” makes Christians look crazy, oversensitive, and hypocritical.

For what it’s worth, the Students for Life didn’t ask to be put in this sequence. I know SFL’s president from the time very well, and he was surprised when I told him about the credits. He knows this blog post is going up. It’s not about his group. That’s a separate debate. I just needed to explain the situation to bring us back to why the credits irked me.

When Christian movies say situations like this one denote students are being “persecuted for their faith,” it becomes all the harder for me to witness to my coworkers, to convince my classmates to come to church with me.

So, this is my plea: Stop throwing around the phrase. Movie companies, this goes out to you. Do your homework before using it. Speak those powerful words only when they apply.

We are in this journey together.

I have planks in my eye, and I know that. I’m working on removing them, and it’s been a long process. But I wouldn’t be speaking the truth in love if I ignored this issue. I wouldn’t do anyone a service by staying quiet. It’s important that we, at the very least, discuss what it means to be persecuted for our faith.

Trying again

In Life on February 22, 2014 at 5:20 pm

Fights take different forms in different relationships. Some are instantaneous explosions of emotion. Others are the boiling over of slights that have simmered under the surface for some time. I think for them, it was the latter. Something kind of like this:

1) The slight (who ever remembers why they got mad in the first place?)

2) The lying (is everything ok? yea, of course) lies. lies. lies.

3) The boiling point (how could you do that one innocuous thing that secretly bugs me but i’ve never told you it  bugs me because it’s not a big deal?)

4) The fight (few things that are true, but most things are overblown in a moment of forgotten forgiveness and spite. the words we can not take back and the bits of us that we lose in defending who we think we are.)

We catch our protagonists at step #5.

5)  The apology

It is easier than we think to move on from something. The opposite of love isn’t hate but selfishness. All we have to do is become caught up in what matters to me and lose sight of what matters to us. So she was out with her friends. Something to keep her mind off some of the stuff that had been going on. Maybe some space would do them good.

He didn’t leave the house. Had some work to do but he wasn’t concentrating too much. It is interesting to think how much would get accomplished if we ever said how we truly feel about something. Guess that is part of being human.

When she got back, he wasn’t home. The distance between mr. and mrs. was greater than one conjunction could hold. She dropped her bag and took off her shoes. She placed her jacket on the coat hook and walked into their bedroom. She sat down on the bed and her eyes found the picture on the dresser. In that unoccupied stillness, her sadness flowed from her eyes. It graced her cheeks until it fell from her face and landed in her lap.

She rose to find some tissues when she noticed the item on her pillow. A neatly folded note. It read:

“Baby, I am sorry. I don’t care why we’re here but this is not where we should be and I don’t think this is where we should stay. I think the most important phrases in the world are “I love you” and “Thank you”. I don’t mean the first phrase enough. I don’t say the second phrase as much. Beautiful, I will never be the man you deserve. However, I know I will try. Thank you for everything you do. I love you for all you are and everything you will be.”

The front door closed. In her haste, she missed the flowers in his hand. In her haste, she ignored her makeup. In her haste, she neglected the disheveled man in the kitchen. In her haste, they were whole again. I guess that’s step #6.

6) Trying again

To build a home.

In Life on January 19, 2014 at 8:04 pm

The tale is an old one, a simple one

It begins with a young man who bought a plot of land.

He staked the land as his, but he built the home for her.

The days were long but the nights were tender.

The delicate which entrances our hope. The thoughts that surround our dreams.

 

As the leaves changed in color, the strength of the phrases changed.

We only know the truth that is given to us. In the rest, we are tasked to remember to trust above all else. Trust in our purpose. Trust in our loves. Trust in our affections. Trust in our faith. Whichever form the truth took is for our characters to know. As she left, he uttered what he could. The words left his lips and hung in the air as she walked away, “I hope you find what it is you’re looking for.”

 

The house stands along the path today. Those seeking refuge can always find a place there.

Most spend a night and leave in the morn. However, for those that take a walk around, they will find an inscription in the tree behind the home. Time has covered the first portion of the phrase  but the eye can still make it out:

 

And I built a home
for you
for me

Until it disappeared
from me
from you

 

 

Educating the mind, and the heart

In Life, Sports on November 26, 2013 at 4:16 pm

educate

I say this at the end of every semester, but it feels especially true this time: Man, this semester has flown by. I have a hard time believing it was June 30 when I wrote this blog post – Six reasons you should take sports journalism at the University at Buffalo this fall – in an effort to boost enrollment in a class that focused on a topic I was, and am, passionate about.

The class has now, sadly, reached its conclusion. It was a great experience learning from Keith McShea, a sportswriter at The Buffalo News, for three months. ENG 399: Sports Journalism will undoubtedly go down as one of my favorite classes I took at UB.

This class was a lot of work – more work than any other journalism class at my school – but it didn’t feel like work. It was pleasurable. When you’re doing, or studying, something you love, it all comes easy. As Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” This was, indeed, an educational experience.

If I had to select the one thing I liked the most about the class, I’d say it was the reading we were assigned. We had weekly assignments from The Best American Sportswriting 2012. Some of the stories in that book blew my mind. You know how you feel at the end of a great movie when it all comes together in one triumphant closing sequence? When it all makes sense? Think (500) Days of Summer or Inception. That’s how I felt at the end of some of the stories in that book. Dave Sheinin’s “The Phenomenal Son” was one of my favorites. Another was Robert Huber’s “Allen Iverson: Fallen Star.” I mean, these are stories I likely never would have discovered if it weren’t for this class, and they completely changed the way I look at sportswriting. I think that’s the fundamental purpose of education – to stimulate students’ brains and revolutionize their methods of thinking.

Supplementary to the book reading, students were also required to write one blog post per week on “The best thing I read this week” – as you have probably seen on Gentlemen of Sport quite a bit, with my weekly The Best Sportswriting I Read This Week section. If sportswriting isn’t your thing, I appreciate you tolerating my incessant posts.

Maintaining this section was quite fun for me. Similar to how I felt I grew from reading the book, I grew a lot from reading outside sports journalism. I’ve always read quite a bit of sportswriting, but this class forced me to make sure I did it every week – and to make sure I paid attention to the details, because once I found that piece that I’d dub The Best Sportswriting I Read This Week, I was going to have to write about what made it so good. Again, some of the pieces I studied – from Lee Jenkins’ “Kobe Bryant: Reflections on a cold-blooded career” to Jonathan Mahler’s “The Coach Who Exploded” – just sent my mind spinning. This is art expressed in sportswriting we’re talking about. I loved studying it.

I also enjoyed the structure of the class’ final assignment – a longform writing piece. I’m finishing mine up this Thanksgiving break. This part of the class leaves everyone with a solid clip to show employers, and it involves the students applying what they have studied all semester. The way I see it, what’s the sense of knowing everything about a topic if you never try applying that knowledge yourself? Of course, we college students are not going to twist clever phrases like Dave Sheinin or set scenes with ease like Lee Jenkins, but we can try.

And the more you try something, the better you get. You gain confidence with time and experience. Maybe one day one of the students in this class will wind up producing a piece students around the country will study. That wouldn’t surprise me.

Passion always starts somewhere. I thought I was passionate about sportswriting before this class. I did really like it. But I didn’t have that fervor to write something great, something legendary that will last forever. Now I do.

In this class, I learned a ton about the topic, gained practical experience, and developed a true zeal for the field of study. That’s what education is all about.

A casual conversation with Malcolm Gladwell

In Culture, Life on November 16, 2013 at 7:32 pm

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Sometimes, the coolest part of journalism is the people you get a chance to meet. I don’t mean just celebrities. I’ve been fortunate to interview some really, truly awesome people, people with attitudes that have sincerely altered my life, before – from well-known figures (Laura Bush, Tiger Woods, David Brooks) to not-as-well-known-but-equally-impressive people (Fred Lee, Louis Long, Mark Bortz).

I was never more excited for an interview than the one I completed this Wednesday. Malcolm Gladwell – the well-known author of books such as The Outliers, The Tipping Point, and Blink, also famous for his writing for The New Yorker and many public speaking engagements (from TED Talks to CNN to speaking at universities) – visited my school, the University at Buffalo.

UB has this thing called the Distinguished Speakers Series that brings popular figures to campus to deliver a speech. Some of them are gracious enough to sit down with a student or two before their speech.

That’s what happened with Gladwell. He was willing to chat with me and my colleague Eric, as we are editors for The Spectrum, UB’s student newspaper. It should have been a nerve-wracking interview, given Gladwell’s clout in our field of study, but it wasn’t – simply because he is so down to earth. That’s one thing I have noticed about him in watching videos of his talks before: He is unbelievably intellectual and yet full of bona fide humility.

But it never came across as clearly as it did in person.

If you want to know some details of our conversation, you can check out my column about the experience here: An intellectually fruitful evening with Malcolm Gladwell.

He made some tremendous points, as could be expected, but I really left the interview just thinking about his down-to-earth nature. His humor is self-deprecating, but not in a sense of disliking himself – in a sense that he realizes he is just another human on earth, just another person who puts his pants on one leg at a time and is going to die eventually. He doesn’t think he has any ideas that can change the world, but he does realize he has a skill for translating ideas to the average person. When we were talking, it was just three guys, not Malcolm Gladwell and two anxious college kids.

Sometimes you are disappointed in well-known people when you meet them in person. I have been surprised to find some beloved figures are in actuality, to put it plainly, jerks. Malcolm Gladwell not only fulfilled my vast expectation of him, he surpassed it.

I encourage you to read his books, the two best-selling of which are listed here: The Tipping Point and Blink. You will be a better person for having done so, and you’ll also be supporting a genuine person.

Answering life’s Question as a senior in college

In Life, Sports on October 12, 2013 at 8:56 pm

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Being a senior in college is great. You know your way around the campus that looked like a new world when you were a freshman; you’ve discovered your niche and stopped trying so hard to be someone you’re not; you have (pretty much) figured out how to balance your time between work and fun; and you’ve developed a circle of close friends at school. There is one part about being a senior, however, that isn’t very fun: Answering The Question.

The Question is the one everyone asks when they hear you’ll be finishing college soon. “So, what are your plans for after graduation?” I know people mean well, and I know they’re genuinely curious, but the concept just makes me uncomfortable. Am I really supposed to have my future figured out right now?

It’s October. I won’t be graduating for seven months, and then I’ll have to embrace full-on adulthood for the rest of my life. I feel ready for it; I truly do. I am also not panicking about landing a job.

But for some reason, The Question still makes me anxious. I think it irritates me because it forces me to think about life without my university, without my friends at school, without my hometown (as I will likely be moving wherever I am hired). But it also bothers me for another reason: more than half the time I respond to people and tell them that yes, I am going to continue pursuing sports journalism, they admonish me against it.

They tell me how little money journalists make, and how I should go into business and become wealthy. They tell me journalism is a dying industry, and I’d be wise to avoid it. This is what I say to everyone who has told me to avoid sports journalism: It’s my passion, and I’m going to chase that regardless of what you say. Truth be told, I have considered alternative careers – law school was a very real possibility for some time – but I’m not ready to give up on my dream.

I have wanted to work in sports journalism since I was 5. I know I’ll work for peanuts, and I know the industry is changing – but let’s make that distinction. Journalism isn’t dying; it’s changing. Newspapers and other print outlets are producing video content every day and interactive multimedia “parallax” pieces like The New York Times’ “Snow Fall” and Complex’s “Danny Brown/Sky High” on a regular basis.

I don’t see newspapers as the past; I see them as the future.

I am prepared to be a part of the change in journalism, and I’m going to love every minute I work in this industry – even though that means I’ll have to deal with seven more months of eye-rolling and The Question. I love what I do, and I’m going to keep doing it. If that doesn’t fit your definition of success, I question your definition.

Lunch with a Pulitzer Prize winner

In Life on October 7, 2013 at 2:21 pm

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John Pope owns 400 bow ties.

His exceptional tie – it’s his lucky one – was the first thing to catch my eye when I met Pope on Thursday, but his quirky affinity for the accessory was far from the only thing I wound up learning about him, and about life, that day.

I am thankful to have had a unique opportunity – Pope, an integral part of the New Orleans Times-Picayune team that won two Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, visited my school, the University at Buffalo. He spoke on Thursday to a lecture hall of students and on Friday to the editorial board of The Spectrum, the school’s student newspaper, about the changing times in journalism.

It was a great two days.

An acclaimed English professor at my school, Dr. Barbara Bono, planned and organized Pope’s trip. She arranged for him and I to have lunch together Thursday. We spent an hour and a half talking about journalism – a conversation between an accomplished, seasoned vet in the industry and a young gun not quite sure what he’s getting into – and his life trajectory.

I learned a lot from the bow-tie-loving man who won the Pulitzer, the most esteemed prize in journalism.

He sports a black wristband that reads, “IGBOK.” I asked what it meant. He said, “it’s gonna be OK,” and then explained how the motto has helped him stay at peace throughout the past year; his wife died one year ago. The pain in his voice when he talks about her is clear, and he does so frequently. The wristband keeps him calm. It puts things in perspective.

I immediately felt a connection with Pope after he shared that emotional detail. The conversation flowed.

As I mentioned, Pope was at UB to talk about the changing times in journalism. He is approaching 65 years old, and he has worked in the industry since he was 22. He is no curmudgeon, though; he is adapting with the times, tweeting and working on videos like a 20-something. “I have no choice,” he explained, saying he can’t fight what is happening in journalism so he might as well embrace it. IGBOK, right? He likes the many young folks who have infiltrated his newsroom, and they like him. They’re learning from each other.

He offers young journalists some rudimentary advice – “think before pushing send.” In other words, don’t fire off a tweet or status or email without putting significant thought into it. He explained how one mistake online can ruin a career or just make your life a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Avoiding this quandary is simple: Just think.

He was gracious in talking about covering the hurricane even though he admitted he has done so countless times. He said the night before the storm hit, there was a small get-together in his newsroom. The reporters were enjoying wine and snacks. They were talking about coffee makers. It was an enjoyable evening.

The storm hit around 5 a.m., and his life was never the same. Weather forecasters had indicated the storm would not be that big of a deal; the newsroom thought it would all be over by 2:30 p.m. They soon realized just how big of a deal Hurricane Katrina was. “Waves of anger and fear were palpable in the newsroom,” Pope said.

He slept under a desk that first night, then the staff evacuated into delivery trucks. He bought a house in Baton Rouge – seriously – for all the journalists who had been forced out of their homes. Eight or nine stayed in that house every night for six weeks.

It still hurts him to think back on the storm, though he has traveled across the country speaking on “the stress of covering stress.” He first spoke on the topic at Harvard; he broke down three times during his address. Pope received a standing ovation at its conclusion.

The Times-Picayune’s coverage received so much attention because it was meticulous and trustworthy. Pope sorted through the rumors and only reported what was true (as a local medical reporter, he had a network of sources), unlike many other outlets that had traveled in to cover the disaster.

“I compare what I did to the man in the circus who cleans up after elephants,” he said between bites of a salad. (When I asked where he wanted to eat, he excitedly said, “somewhere healthful.”)

Pope also got emotional, even teary-eyed, describing the New Orleans Saints’ 2010 Super Bowl win and what that event meant to the city. It meant, in many ways, New Orleans had made it back; it had faced a disaster and had finally overcome it. He blogged from bars around the city that night and eventually covered the championship parade. His only regret from that day, such a beautiful day, is working so hard that he missed the Ying Yang Twins’ rendition of “Stand Up And Get Crunk,” an anthem in the city.

In all, I truly enjoyed my time with John Pope. He’s an incredibly articulate, successful and educated man, but he had no problem sitting down with a college kid for an extended period and simply talking about life. He said his favorite part of his job is spending time with people who make him think.

That’s mine, too.

Mama, there goes that man

In Life on October 1, 2013 at 10:09 pm

 

“Mama, there goes that man”: Former ABC NBA Commentator Marc Jackson’s confident and poignant analysis of basketball. It’s such a simple statement to highlight a play that simply has no better response. “Mama, there goes that man”. I can’t remember how many times he said that during the Lakers playoff runs from 2008-2010 but to be perfectly honest with you, the phrase doesn’t hearken to back-to-back championships. No, it’s something so much simpler than that. Something that makes more sense to me now.

“Mama, there goes that man” takes me to a little boy sitting next to his mother on a park bench when he sees his favorite ball player walk by. The ball player gives him a smile and the little boy ducks into that safe spot in his mother’s side. She knowingly smiles as the little boy doesn’t have the courage to say hello. Not yet, anyway. Once the ball player rounds the corner, the little boy looks up to his mother and says calmly, “Mama, there goes that man.”

There’s an emphasis on the “Mama”. Something about how what the little boy saw was so important that he needed Mama to know. I like to think that Mama turned to him, expecting to see him really excited, and was surprised how calm he was in that moment. Then the rest of the phrase kind of tumbles out: “there goes that man”.

There’s an antiquated notion in the little boy’s use of “that man”. It’s not just any man, it’s “that man”. The idea that we can emulate those we find significant to our dreams. It’s not an embodiment of perfection, but rather a naive comfort in the assumption that we can aspire to be like those who inspire us. “Mama, there goes that man”.

We’re getting to an age where “I hope”, “I want to be”, and “I pray” are turning into “I’m trying to”, “I’m working towards”, and “I am”.  We have fond memories and deep regrets. The paths we take are more and more our own. The little boy is growing up.

I like to think that some years pass and the smile and endless hope are the clearest measurements in the man visiting his mother. He walks past the home of ‘that man’ and ‘that man’ is sitting on the porch with his grandson; comfort in his rocking chair, peace in a life fulfilled. The grandson looks on with grandpa and wonders what’s so intriguing about this particular person walking by the house. The man walks by on the way to his childhood home as ‘that man’ looks on from his chair.

He turns to his grandson and says, “Sonny, there goes that boy.”

Who We Are

In Life on September 28, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Something incredibly enlightening happened to me tonight.

I spent some time in a group talking with two people that I hadn’t spoken to at serious length in quite a long time, and I came away from the conversation blown away by my own feelings. These two particular people are indelible reminders of my past – one of high school, the other of a past relationship – and I was flat-out rocked by the intensity of the emotions that talking with them conjured. No old flame was rekindled or new interest sparked; in fact, quite the opposite occurred. I was not enlivened, rather crushed. I felt very small. I felt unsure again.

You see, I got a late start on finding myself. I was homeschooled until the age of fifteen, an age when many have already become entrenched in their social niche and resigned themselves to it. I, on the other hand, was effectively a blank slate when I entered the world of high school. Even a tiny Christian high school, tame as a mouse in comparison with many scholastic monstrosities, was daunting to me. I had no sense of identity or place, so I tried to fit in everywhere.

May I endeavor to describe to you how miserably I failed? Senior superlatives came out in the yearbook a week before graduation, and while my classmates received humorous titles or creative labels, mine were “Biggest Tool” and “Most likely to kill a joke.” Seriously. Those are actually the two lines under my picture in the back of my senior yearbook. I’ll never forget the moment of reflection this led me to: “Well, those three years went well.”

Basically, those three years were all I had in my personal bank to define myself by. And that was how it ended… bankrupt. Time is an amazing teacher, though, and I have matured significantly since those days. I have found my identity and a well-founded confidence through my faith in Jesus and a great deal of personal growth, and I thought I was well past those high school feelings. But that leads us back to tonight. I was amazed at how I instantly time traveled during my conversation with these two girls. I literally felt like the person I was three, four, five years ago. I felt small and insignificant and flawed and guilty again. And that shocked me. But it proved a couple things to me. First, it showed me just how powerful our most significant feelings are. They never really die. So, be incredibly careful about how you make others feel. You may make them feel like I felt in high school; don’t ever do that to someone. And second, don’t ever let anyone make you feel small. You are significant, you are important, and you are incredibly valuable. Find your identity in that.

Stay strong,

Andrew

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