Communication-A Crucial Part of Discipleship
I was recently asked a very interesting question: “Who, in your life, has acted as a spiritual mentor or leader?”
Immediately, my mind went to an old friend of mine: Mark Holland. Mark was one of the kindest, gentlest, and wisest people I’ve ever known. He never raised his voice, always maintained direct eye contact when talking to us, and was clearly full of the Spirit to the point where it poured out of him onto everyone he came into contact with. He also loved the mountains; some of my favorite memories with Mark were on Trek, as we hiked and played spades and talked about life together.
I loved being able to tell the person asking the question above about Mark, and having the chance to keep his memory alive. Unfortunately, Mark passed away a decade ago after a prolonged battle with cancer. It was an enormous loss for our church, for his family, and for me personally. It’s rough not having Mark around to talk to, or ask questions of, or just have him pray over me.
This weekend I finally got fed up with the state of our garage and decided to start organizing/throwing things away. At the bottom of a pile of stuff, I found a plastic tub packed full of mementos from my childhood. Old soccer and basketball trophies, Sing Song sheet music from ACU, my collection of foreign coins…and an old, long-forgotten letter from Mark, written to me on my last Sunday before I left for college.
In it, he spoke blessings over me, talked about how much he valued our friendship, and mentioned two things that caused my breath to catch: he was so excited to see me as a father, and he knew that no matter what I did with my life that God would be guiding my steps. Mark passed before Declan was a twinkle in his mother’s eye, and on the day of Mark’s death I was working in a bakery in Allen, Texas. But, looking at a scrawny, nerdy, socially inept, 18 year-old, Mark knew these truths about me.
An important part of discipleship is being able to discern truths about each other, and crucially, to tell each other. Mark could have thought those things and kept them to himself. (Mercifully, I think a lot of people keep their opinions of me to themselves.) To take the risk of telling me–and to put it down on paper!--required a boldness and faith that I often find lacking. But I know the reward, because there I was a decade after Mark’s death, being blessed by his words once again.
As part of our Portrait of a Graduate, we want our students to be effective communicators. This is an important life skill, to be sure: crafting emails, speaking tactfully, and sharing information clearly are all things we could all stand to be better at doing. But communicating effectively is also such a crucial part of discipleship: crafting prayers, speaking truth into each other's lives, and sharing the Gospel clearly.
I’m thankful for Mark and the time we shared together on this planet. But this week, I’m thankful for Mark’s ability to communicate effectively, and how 20 years later his gifts are still speaking to me. May we all be mindful of the words we use, the impact they can have, and of the power of the Word, who is worthy of all honor and praise.
Secondary Education Principal
Logos Preparatory Academy