My son, Jesse, is about to turn 30. When he was young he wanted to play in the NBA. He was born three weeks early and was nearly 23 inches long — and finished up at just under 6’6″. Throughout his life his height convinced everyone, and especially him, that making money playing basketball was surely in his future.
Well…he never made it into the NBA. He’s now a IT guy and the thing for which he is most “famous” are, in fact, toddler temper tantrums. God’s providence and humor were on display when Jesse became a pastor for a couple of years at the very church where a full blown tantrum decades earlier gained the attention of numerous church members who had just attended a parenting seminar taught by…yes…his dad and me! Our dentist was one of those watching Jesse’s flailing, screaming fit on the lobby floor while his mother looked around and said, “Hmmm, someone may wanna go and find this kid’s parents.” Don has joined our family in a few chuckles about that day on more than one occasion.
To this day, people who meet Jesse for the first time and remember those parenting seminars back in the 90’s respond with, “You’re the tantrum-throwing Phillips kid, right?” Being well known for screaming, kicking, writhing on the floor and even biting his mother in the shoulder wasn’t Jesse’s idea. But his toddler antics have given hope to many parents over the years. I can’t count the number of times people have mentioned being comforted by their own parenting struggles because of God’ grace in his life.
Being well known for weakness, failure or sin isn’t new. Nor is the hope people gain from seeing God change broken and flawed people. Ask people what they remember most about King David and many will mention his murder and adultery. The guy who killed Goliath; became a valiant warrior who led his people to stunning victories over formidable enemies; returned the Ark of God to Jerusalem; and wrote Psalms from which centuries of believers have found comfort and hope is remembered most for his sin.
Being well known for failure isn’t easy. I know a little about that. 15 years ago our family went through a hard season that resulted in my husband resigning from pastoring the beloved church we started in the late 70’s. Since then, many of those involved have humbly asked our forgiveness for the circumstances and decisions that transpired during that painful season in our lives. Nevertheless, people still sometimes think of us as “that family” or Benny as “that pastor” who resigned from leading his church. God has been faithful to redeem all that happened for good in our family’s lives — we are each trophies of His amazing grace! Yet, we have found peace in the regular reminders through interactions with people we haven’t seen in awhile that sometimes God chooses to use our failures rather than our successes to make the gospel shine brightest.
Do you desire to have relationships where you, too, are well known? Are you afraid, though, of taking the risk? What if people find out you’re weak? Flawed? Sinful? The fact is, they will because you and I are broken and remain in need of a Savior. Genuine relationships require revealing not just our strengths but also our weaknesses. And when that happens people sometimes treat us wrongly. They judge, proudly criticize and act as if they are not fellow sinners who are also weak and flawed. But even then, God remains faithful and loving. The cross demonstrated once and for all that He will never hold our sins against us or hold us captive to past failures. In fact, His perfect Son not only bore the wrath we deserved but then declared us not guilty for every past, present and future sin. When we are judged and misunderstood we can look to Him and resist the temptation to judge and misunderstand back.
With resounding praise we can say, “If God be for us, who can be against us!” Please take the risk of being well known! Yes, some may reject or judge you, but others will accept and show you compassion. It’s painful to be treated self-righteously but the One who forever proved that nothing can separate us from His love will help you to find the right people with whom you can share your heart and life.
Being well known is worth the risk.