The story of my life could in many ways be told by the people, places and events that have formed me. My hometown, my parents, my twin sister, my church – these tell the stories of my childhood. Moving further down the line, friends from college, the campus itself, the fellows program, roommates that I’ve had and cities I have lived in have gently or forcibly molded me into the person that I am now. Sometimes in life, we are formed unwittingly. Years later, we look back on an event or a relationship and can trace its impact on us. Occasionally, the gravity of something hits us before it actually arrives. But sometimes very rarely, we are allowed to feel the significance of a moment as it is happening and we are taken aback, even as we experience it.
I wish that we could choose these moments. That they would all be magical, other worldly encounters where we were all on our best behavior and everyone spoke with a British accent [British accents always clue me into magic.] But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about the ugly weight of conviction. I never like being convicted because it means that I’m in the wrong and am no longer confident that the wrong was actually right. It’s all very unbecoming.
It was October 10, 2012. Some of you will know that that was also the anniversary of my birth. As some point during this auspicious day, my friend Sam posted on my Facebook wall. [Here is where it would be nice to throw in some British fauns or a friendly owl to deliver this message. But nope – it’ll have to be Facebook.] His words were simple and, because Sam sees me only one weekend a year when I’m on relatively good behavior, I imagine he thought them to be true.
He wrote, “Thank you for using your energy and pizazz for good, not evil.” Because I have been well trained in the language of superheroes, I immediately translated this to “…using your powers for good, not evil.” I smiled. Then, I was terrified. Before this rogue happy birthday message, I would not have told you that I had powers, much less the types of powers I associated with being used for good or evil like superhuman strength or controlling the weather. But Sam seemed to think I had power. [You should know that Sam seems to be the sort of person who would know about these things. He’ll grow up and be like Dumbledore or Obi Wan or Gandalf – speaking the words that alert you to the power/magic/force that perhaps you were too afraid to hope was real.]
But behind Sam’s cheerful message was a different reality. If I did indeed have powers, I was using them to intimidate and manipulate and come out on top. I was in a battle with a coworker less about who was correct, but more about who would win. Words, argument, and eyes of steel were my weapons of choice. But Sam’s confidence in my character, his willingness to speak a different reality into my life stopped me in my tracks. This was one of those weighty, defining moments. The power in me had been named, and it had been called “good.” Conviction had entered and settled into my heart.
It has been nearly five months since Sam spoke [typed] that truth into my heart, and I wish that I could report that only words of life have come from my lips, or that selfless acts rule over selfish desires. But what has happened is a new awareness; the knowledge that I am not a passive observer in the lives of those around me, but that I can use my powers for good [or, for evil] in their lives.
This reminder is now written on my mirror – the first thing I see when I get out of bed, and the last thing I see before I leave the house. And when I leave, I go in the power of the Holy Spirit, to use my powers, to use His powers for the good of the one who made me.