I am writing this from one of my favorite places on earth, where I am staying with my dear friend and her family - Nashville, Tennessee. They are all special to me, and this is a special place to me as much of my growth and God's grace have mingled together in this city.
Yesterday, I was heading out the door to share part of my story in a "new"setting and I was a bit nervous (ok, alot nervous, but it is good to be so sometimes. It keeps me humble.) My friends' 13 year old son, Andrew, was teasing me.
"Don't let the critics get you down!" he mused, as I was getting in to the car to leave.
"Thanks, alot, Andrew, for the encouragement" I teased back, but feeling the lump in my throat grow exponentially.
Then his mother asked him to recite to me a part of a speech that he had memorized months earlier. I thought it may encourage some of my readers. It did me. It is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt, given in a speech in 1910, in Paris.
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Dear reader, do you find yourself feeling as if you have stepped in to an arena, or are being called to do so? Maybe it's the arena of trial and suffering that you are walking valiantly in, trusting God verses cowering in fear. Maybe you are soon to be entering an arena that the Lord has called you to step in to - a job, a ministry, a calling, an opportunity to share your story.
The arena can be a vulnerable place, a dirty place where our faces may feel as if they are marred with dust and sweat and tears, an intense place. It is here, often in this place where our character grows, our integrity is defined, our faith is strengthened and the Lord seen clearer.
The arena is a place where we enter with courage, trust in the Lord's provision and fight with great tenacity. It is a place that we can live a very full life regardless of whether we experience victory or defeat. It is a battle well worth it.