Words with weight...
Sometimes the weight of the words we hear is found in our ability to tap into personal experiences that we've had, for example...
“If you think you’re too small to have an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito.” Anita Koddick
If you've ever been camping, there is a knowingness that you connect with when you read that quote. It wouldn't have mattered who actually uttered those words because their power is found in your own experience.
But at other times the weight of the words we hear aren't found in our personal experiences at all...
“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.” Helen Keller
And instead, are found in the experience that the person who was saying them has had. For me, it's about who Helen Keller is and what she's experienced that adds weight to those words.
And still, at other times, it's both personal experiences, and the experience of the speaker that are adding the weight to the words. When this happens, I've found that it can initiate a path towards change. For me, it happened with the following words...
"...do not hold this sin against them." Stephen talking to God
The people he is speaking about had judged him worthy of death, and they were lynching him. They were in the middle of aiming and throwing rocks at his head to crush his skull. The words were spoken about a mob who were in the middle of killing him.
I know you're wondering how they relates to any of my experiences.
And no it's not that I've been stoned (I've always been super relaxed about stuff.) When I say my experience collides with Stephen's, it's because of my experience with a mob. As a twelve-year-old, I was playing in a soccer match between white teenagers and aboriginal teenagers when a young indigenous boy rubbed my hair on the way past after scoring a goal. I figured I better teach him a lesson about respect and so bided my time till my team scored. Now the real miracle of the story was that I was the one that scored my team's goal about five minutes later and with my (un)healthy desire to teach him a life lesson still intact I spotted my student.
Not only did I give his hair a good rubbing. I also decided to stick my chest out and do a little bit extra. My in your face routine also had a dance component to it (including a dramatic final spin), and it was during that rotation upon nearing the half-way line that I noticed the rest of my predominantly white teammates running away. As I turned to see what had created the genuine fear in my team. I was greeted by an angry mob. A mix of hostile teenagers and viscous pre-teens all looking for my blood. And when the slow-motion shot of them flying through the air towards me finished and sped up, they got their target. Within seconds I was on the ground barely able to protect my face. I felt like I was going to die. And then the mob bolted. I love little old ladies.
I'm not sure what she'd done but they were gone, and I was left alone with blood, bruises and an intense hatred for all Aboriginal people.
And while they beat me I promise you I wasn't saying, "God don't hold this against these guys." In fact, I was going for the opposite, I wanted God to have their blood. That night and for many years after I was angry and hate-filled towards my new enemies. It was in that state that I first collided with Stephens words it was his experience and my experience that added enough weight to the words to set me on a heart path to change.
The question that consumed the beginning of that journey was, how? How can he say something like that in that moment?
It’s when we zoom out and look at Stephens whole story, that it gives us some clues. The character that keeps showing up is Spirit. As if I can put into words how to get your head around that, but in short, spirit points us toward Jesus and Jesus is God's explanation for who he really is and what he's really like.
Stephen has seen Jesus.
And you can only say something like Stephen said when you can see God for who he really is.
So, have I seen him?
I'd have to share another story...