You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it. -Deuteronomy 1:17, emphasis added
I have a friend that I have the privilege of seeing and maybe catching a conversation or two with once a year. She’s not the kind of friend that I talk to on a regular basis or even share the polite update about my mission trips with. But she is the kind of friend that I treasure every rare moment with.
She is the kind of friend that makes me want to read more. In the first five minutes I met her several years ago, I began wishing that I was an extrovert. Sharing Jesus is something she does with every stranger she comes in contact with. Not in the ‘you’re going to hell’ if you don’t listen to me way, but in the ‘eternal life begins NOW because of His grace and this is how He’s changed my life so far’ way. For years, I have admired how she picks up conversations with people – whether she knows them or not – exactly where she would have left off with her best friend.
This girl is a coffee lover, a preacher, and someone radically in love with God. I don’t agree with everything she says, or sometimes what she teaches, but I love her. I love her because she is honest. I love her because she is not afraid of disagreeing with people or being disliked. I love that if she’s talking to you, you are the one and only person on her mind. If you have her presence, you not only have her time – but you have her eyes. She looks you in the eye. (Officially going to add working on eye contact on my list for 2015, because I am the worst at it.)
Her name is Judy Howard Peterson, nationwide speaker and campus pastor at Northpark University in Chicago.
There’s one thing that she said to me that I will never forget, in all of the life advice that she’s given me and our church’s ladies over the years. It was the first night we met. My Mom, my Auntie, and I had went to pick her up at our local airport. As we dropped her off at the hotel here in town almost an hour later, she began to flip through the packets she was going to give the women at the all-day retreat she was here for the following day. She allowed us to skim them over and asked what we thought the women of this community needed the most from this retreat. I don’t remember if my Mom or Auntie replied right away, but then she said, “If you think of anything that the Holy Spirit lays on your heart in the meantime, let me know.” The two women nodded. We began tip-toeing out of her room, giving her the opportunity to call her husband and get some rest before the long day ahead of us. Before we exited she glanced over at me (I was twelve at the time), “If the Holy Spirit lays something on your heart, Emilee, I want to know, too. There is not a 45-year-old Holy Spirit or a 12-year-old Holy Spirit. You and I have the same Spirit within us. He can speak the same way to both of us.” (Or something very close to that effect.)
I cannot tell you the many times I think about that statement and gain courage from it. I’m sure the people in my life had portrayed to me the importance I was to the church body over the years, but it wasn’t until that moment that it had began to truly click in my mind. Or it was just the first time that I had seen a grown woman look me in the eye to confirm it.
No matter how old you are – you are not little. No matter what stage of life you’re in, you can feel put down or condemned by God’s children. The people that don’t know how much they’re making a mark on your life. Don’t let them. Respect your authority, but don’t let anyone look down on you. 1 Timothy 4:12 has been a huge verse in every season of my life, helping me and coaching me in confidence in my relationship with Christ.
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. -1 Timothy 4:12, ESV
Believing this – that I’ve truly never been little in the demeaning sense of the word – hasn’t been easy. It’s not something that is easy to grasp for some people. Hurtful words have been spoken to me and the scar of their disapproval still remains on my heart. I have never intended to hurt anyone in standing up for what I believe in, however blunt I may seem. But I don’t ever intend to let anyone look down on me just because I’m young. There is one Holy Spirit. If you’ve accepted Christ, He resides within you and me the same way.
I won’t always give the right advice and sometimes might speak in more judgment than love. But don’t we all? It’s for Him that I long to be a friend that could help iron sharpen iron. It’s not comfortable, because it’s about relationships. Relationships between humans with mostly-the-same sins needing the same, constant Savior.
I’m grateful that speaking the truth in love isn’t something that only happens when you graduate college or get married or have more personal tragedies than the next guy. Jesus began speaking with and questioning his teachers at the age of twelve. Speaking the truth in love starts now – at 11, at 17, or 87.
This message is for you.
Keep looking up towards Him, and encourage your brothers and sisters to never look down.
P.S. To hear from Judy Howard Peterson herself, head on over to the covenant church on January 31st at 9:30AM. The women’s retreat will be held until 2:30PM. We will be discussing Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” Click here to learn more or register: http://claycentercovenant.com/2015/01/be-still-and-know/.