One of the things that I have had in my heart since I started in full-time vocational ministry 8 years ago was the desire to raise up the next generation. When I was younger and in high school, I didn't have a lot of young people in my church to spend time with, our youth group was fairly small, only about 6 of us. I ended up spending a lot of time with people who were older than me. I played a lot of ping pong with my youth pastor and had tons of conversations about everything. A lot of people took the time to invest in my life and help to steer me in the right direction.
Now, I am in a place where I'm the older person and I have the opportunity to speak into the lives of young people who are making many decisions about their life. I want to pass on the very thing that was so important to me and encourage them in the faith that has become such a large and important part of my life. Thankfully, through music, I get a lot of opportunities for that and it's always exciting to see people grow.
Amidst my experience, I have what I call "trophies of grace." These "trophies" are young people that stand out to me above others. It might be that I spend more time with them than I do with others. It might be that there is some characteristic of them that stands out to me. Regardless, there have been a few young people who have probably influenced me way more than I could ever influence them.
This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to go to a piano recital for one of those young people. This young man is an only child. He loves Harry Potter. He's brilliant. He's talented. He's determined. He was born with only two fingers on his right hand, but that hasn't stopped him or slowed him down too much. His name is Raleigh Browne.
As I sat and listened to him play music on the piano that someone with 10 fingers would struggle with, tears welled up in my eyes. His mom shared her anger with God when he was born, her frustration that he would not be able to do all the things that she had hoped he could do. His piano teacher spoke of the inspiration that he was and the opportunity that he had to meet George Winston, a famous pianist. His music was heartfelt and his determination was contagious.
He took a moment in the recital to thank those who had taught, coached, and mentored him. As I turned over the program, I saw my name listed among others. I wondered how I could sit among other such influential people. I wondered if I had really made a difference. Yet he called me by name.
I smiled to myself and wondered if he knew how much I had learned from him. I felt a twinge of guilt inside for the many times that I had faced a seemingly impossible situation that had caused me to want to throw in the towel and give up. I wondered how many times someone had told Raleigh that he couldn't do something only to eat their words later on when he proved them wrong.
God doesn't make mistakes. I might not understand everything that happens and I know that we live in a world that is marred by sin, but I know that God remains sovereign. I look at Raleigh and I wonder what would be different had he been born with two normal hands, but then I realize that he is who he is in part due to how he was born. His character has been shaped and molded by the obstacles that he has had to overcome. His determination and sheer grit have been formative for him and all who have come in contact with him. He is an inspiration.
In Matthew 17:20, after the disciples were unable to cast out a demon, they ask Jesus why they were unsuccessful. Jesus says to them, "Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." I don't know what Raleigh wants to do when he gets older, but I have a hard time thinking that he will be anything less than successful in whatever it is that he puts his mind to.
I am privileged to have been used, in however small of a way, to encourage this young man. God has a special plan for him and it's encouraging and inspiring to see. My prayer is that I might face every obstacle and adversity with the same grit and determination that Raleigh has faced his, knowing that nothing is impossible. May we all eliminate the phrase, "that's impossible" from our vocabularies.