My Regan is a speaker of truth. He will tell you how he feels about a matter without much (or any) regard to how it will affect what you think about him. He speaks matter-of-factly with a strange sense of authority for one so young. There is a relaxed confidence in the way that he articulates what he believes, because in his mind, right is right and, if you know the answer then why in the world would you not speak it out!? Granted, it is going to take a bit of tweaking by the Holy Spirit, but one day this God-given gift will be used to boldly proclaim the freedom of walking in the truth of God’s Word.
One time when he was about four years old we were shopping for groceries. Regan was walking beside the basket holding on to it for dear life knowing that letting go would result in having to get in the basket. We turned the corner and there in the middle of aisle 9B was the source of the screaming we had been hearing for the last few minutes. A little boy about the age of two or three had thrown himself on the floor and was pitching the granddaddy of all fits. His poor mother, who was obviously embarrassed, was pleading with him to stop. Believe it or not, she had counted to three, five times, and yet that had not even been enough to quell his ear-piercing tantrum. The little guy had drawn a line in the sand (or the laminate tile floor) and was determined that he would win this battle, and his momma had all but conceded to that fact.
I pretended not to notice the scene before me and busied myself with choosing the best peanut butter for my family (“Choosy moms choose JIF”. I dated myself, didn’t I?) Out of the corner of my eye I saw Regan’s chubby hand release its hold on the basket and in an instant I knew what was about to happen. The events that followed moved in slow motion and yet at the same time in warp speed. It was dizzying and before I could get my bearings I saw my son walk right up to this weary momma, who was on the floor at this point promising her little blessing a trip to Toys R Us if he would just stop his wailing. Regan tapped the battle-weary momma on her shoulder, looked her in the eyes and said, “If you would spank him, he wouldn’t act like that.” Then he turned on his heel, walked back over to the basket, wrapped his fingers around its bars, and stood there as if the last few minutes never happened.
I, on the other hand, was mortified! The fit-throwing boy’s mom and I locked eyes for a split second. We both knew that Regan had spoken the uncomfortable truth. I threw the peanut butter that was still in my hand into the basket and took off pushing my basket as far away from this whole scenario as possible. Regan held on tightly, running alongside the basket as quickly as his little legs could carry him.
I knew at this point that the time had come to begin teaching Regan that there is a balancing act involved in speaking the truth. I certainly did not want to quench this developing gift that the Lord had equipped him with, but surely there was a way to teach him that there was a time to share his gift and there was certainly a time not to, and that it must always be done with a heart of love.
So, fast forward about ten years. I walked into the room where my boys were doing school (they are home-schooled) and Ben, my youngest, was still working on a writing assignment that should have been finished at least an hour ago. When I inquired as to why it was taking him so long he told me that after reading his paper, Regan had told him that it was not very good and that he should start over. I read Ben’s first draft and I had to agree with Regan. It was sub par.
“Regan, I agree that Ben did not do his best on his paper. When given an opportunity you spoke the truth to him, but did you say it in love?”
“Oh, yes Ma’am, I surely did. I told him, ‘This story is terrible, Ben, and you need to redo it’.”
Well, I guess he got the part about the right time and place to speak the truth. Maybe the “in love” part has a slightly different connotation to one who by nature is so blunt.
I have thought a lot about truth lately and how, unlike Regan, it does not come naturally to most of us. We shrink back from speaking what we know to be right. We worry too much about what others will think about us, what is politically correct at the time, or maybe seeming intolerant. We see injustice and lies, but our fear of man causes us to walk through life hunched over, eyes on the ground, hoping no one takes notice of us, and for goodness’ sake never wanting to offend anyone.
I recently saw a movie that quenched my spirit and caused me to be sad for days over the Church’s fear of speaking the truth. It was a great family film, but when given the opportunity to proclaim that Jesus was the Way, the Truth and the Life, it bowed its head in shame of the cross and the blood and chose instead to speak weakly of just loving God. If all that it took to secure our place in eternity and to give us an abundant life on this earth was simply a confession of our love for God, then please, somebody tell me why was such a sacrifice as the blood of Jesus required for our redemption? Why are we so hesitant to speak in love what is true?
I tell my kids that just as there are physical absolutes there are spiritual absolutes as well. If you jump off of a building God’s law of gravity says that you are going to hit the ground and it will not be pretty. Same goes for spiritual laws. There are absolutes that God Himself authored and no amount of white washing or watering them down on our part changes the consequences of ignoring said principles. Jumping off a tall building will result in a painful fall. Walking in defiance or disobedience to His Word will result in destruction and regret. When God gives us an occasion to speak truth into someone’s life and we opt instead to speak words that appease our own need for approval we have essentially robbed that person of an opportunity for freedom. We have aided and abetted the enemy in keeping them trapped in his web of lies.
Now, I am not advocating openly proclaiming everything that comes into your head. Telling someone that they wear too much make-up or that they might want to rethink that new hairstyle they are sporting is not going to usher them into freedom. So often, though, when given the opportunity to speak Life into someone’s situation we shrink back and, in fear of rejection or conflict, say something generically nice and non-threatening. At that point we are not walking in love; we are walking in selfishness.
Through the years I have thought about that woman at the store, and wondered if the truth that Regan spoke to her had any effect on the way she reared her son. Actually, it would be nice to know that the humiliation I felt that day was not in vain. In reality though, we are not responsible for the outcome when we sow Truth into someone’s life. That is God’s job. His Word does not return void but accomplishes what He set out for it to accomplish. Our job is to simply speak it and to do so with the love of Jesus.
My prayer lately has been that God would give me such an extravagant love and compassion for people that I cannot help but sow His truth into their lives. I have been asking Him to grant me the courage to boldly speak, putting His kingdom above my own comfort. Whenever God opens an opportunity for me to share His Word, like Regan, I want to proclaim the Truth, confidently knowing that it is the only source of true and lasting freedom. I want to stop what I’m doing, wrap my arms around that lost or hurting or just plain tired soul, and thereby earn the right to say, “Let’s go to His Word and see what God says about your situation.”