Man, I sure have had some strong promptings and several not so subtle hints to grow and learn lately, especially when it comes to being bold or even just obedient. I have been sitting on 2 Timothy 4:1-5 for a little bit and have been challenged and I have experienced several instances that have called for me to be active and obedient in the call to speak and live truth.
"1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourageÂ—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry."
I really dislike confrontation and I am not a big fan of hurting people's feelings, so I often back down or simply never step up when it comes to times of tension or heated conversation. But I have learned several things within this scripture lately and I have felt challenged in my soul to stop laying down or cowering when it comes time to rebuke or just to speak truth in love. I'm not getting at crazy talk, like standing on the corner and yelling at people to turn or burn and blasting people upside the head with religious jargon to make them feel like crap. No, I'm talking about being willing and open with what my life is based on and being willing and able to share what God is doing or has done in my life when the opportunity arrives. And also sharing what needs to be shared, without coating it with so much sugar the recipient walks away losing teeth from all the sweet talk. It can be anything from teaching the seventh graders I help coach in football that "we are playing football and so you need to tackle and stop dancing with your opponent," to dealings within organized ministry and within relationships. In football I can often coddle the players or pull them aside and sugar coat things with long, you've got potential and blah blah blah cuddle coddle stuff, and then they feel all warm and we can skip hand in hand with ice cream cones singing zippity do dah. I do want to encourage them, but I am finding some of the best ways to encourage them and help them is saying "hit somebody, this is football so let's start popping some people and playing the game right." I had a kid tell me, after missing a wide open tackle the day before in our game that led to a touchdown, that he felt like he let the team down. Instead of hugging his wounds and giving him a lolly pop, I asked him if he knew what he did wrong, then to take that feeling of disappointment and let it drive him to get better and to go out and hit somebody. He nodded his head and said, "thanks coach," then he went out played as if he was not the smallest kid on the team in physical size, but went and practiced with heart and determination. I didn't want him to drown in sorrow, but I did want him to feel the sting of his mistake and to let that drive him to get better and to learn from it. So, that maybe a small example and you might think it doesn't hold the spiritual depth you were looking for, but it is one place that is a big deal to me because it is a step of moving into a place of more discipline in my life. It is one place where I recognize that I take a back seat to how I feel and where I will back down to what needs to be said or done. I also have been challenged to challenge those at Moto (our middle school community) as well, to say what needs to be said or to call them to a place that isn't always comfortable. Our culture often tells us to "let kids be kids," and we don't call them to a higher way of living. It is said that several of Jesus' disciples were quite young and were called to a certain way of living and loving, and the Apostle Paul was quick to remind Timothy that he shouldn't let people look down on him because he is young. And in this above passage, that Paul was charging Timothy to not cave to those people that want him to say what they want to hear, but to say and live what God has called him to. That God's calling is not always people pleasing and full of handing out lolly pops packaged in how to be happy and successful wrappers. I have felt convicted and charged to follow what God is calling me to, and there are times when it is not convenient or people pleasing, but it is about being obedient. It has been a summer of learning and burning, as in burning away some of the coward in me and the disobedience that I paint with all kinds of gooey fluff excuses. And yes, I understand that this taking place outside a context of love would just be harsh and could seem mean spirited. And this scripture says this should take place with all patience (In its literal translation), to which I also want to integrate within this learning so that it is taken in wholly.
I have experienced both sides of the coin in my journey; with harshness, bullying, and condemnation being excused with cries of truth speaking. And then cowardice and back pedaling excused with cries of humility, mercy, and gentleness. I am finding that within the two there is a fine line where God is calling me (us) to live, speak, and love in truth, which I also find isn't always comfortable and fun.