We Have Promises to Keep
I experienced a "butt-kicking" event in my early twenties and I mention it because it changed my life. It came from my pastor at the time when I was a youth pastor, full of zeal and excited about an opportunity to take on the leadership of a moderately sized youth group or 15-20 teens. Over the next few years, we saw a significant move of God that resulted in more teens and young adults giving their lives to Christ, many of whom went on into church leadership and other forms of ministry.
My pastor at the time happened to also be my Uncle, Dave Lagore. You need to understand that growing up as a kid, Dave was one of my favourite adults. He was funny, energetic, and generous to a fault. I always looked forward to our visits. He always seemed to have Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum handy for me when I came around asking for one. He had a great knack for relating to children and youth. He had an energy and charisma about him that always made me feel like the world was a lot better than it had been before he arrived. As a child, Dave was born with club feet. The prognosis was that he would spend his life in a wheelchair. However, his dad, my grandpa, took him to every healing meeting imaginable on the Canadian prairies, including an Oral Roberts tent revival. There was no healing but my grandpa refused to quit. One day, a relatively unknown woman evangelist came to town and my grandpa took Dave to get prayer from her. She laid her hands on Dave and she told him to run. He began to run around the building, completely healed! He went on to be a great athlete, playing football, hockey and baseball. He not only played well, he was also a great team leader inspiring others to up their game, which was evident in his pastoral leadership.
Fast-forwarding about 60 years to a year ago, Dave had to get an X-ray for calcium deposits on his feet. The doctor took a look at the X-rays and asked for another one. He looked again, and called Dave into his office. He said to him, “You have no tendons in your feet. It is physically impossible for you to walk.” The doctor now has this standing joke every time Dave visits him by saying, “Oh, you’re the guy who can’t walk.” For all these years, Dave had been walking, running, working, playing, with no tendons! He’s literally a walking miracle. He continues to live his life in simple faith and trust in God’s supernatural power to heal the sick. I’ve seen him face unimaginable obstacles and setbacks, and continue to live worshipfully and faithfully.
THE GREATEST GIFT
So, certainly the greatest gift that Dave gave me was the gift of faith. This was not only faith in God, although it included that, but a faith in me. I know this sounds humanistic, but it was because of his faith in God that he believed in me. He made room for me. He trusted me. He entrusted this youth group, which included his own kids into my care. I was allowed to stretch my wings, and fly, and develop as a young leader. On the weekends, as a youth leader, I would take the youth out to Stephen Avenue Mall in downtown Calgary to share about Jesus. This was actually where we met Gordie Guiboche, the founder of our chili-wagon for the very first time. Kathleen and I and our small group would first meet at the church, pray, and then head downtown. While there was always the expected resistance, we never failed to find people who were hungry and open to discuss spiritual things, and through the years, we saw a significant number of people come to faith in Christ.
One time, I had planned to meet a group of teens on a Saturday afternoon at the church and head downtown. However, for some reason, only one or two showed up, so I cancelled it. A little while later, Dave asked me how it went. I told him that I had cancelled it. I’ll never forget what he said to me. “Gordie, never do that again. If you only have one person show up, you go.” He wasn’t harsh or judgmental, but I remember his words went like a scalpel through my heart. Yes, they were strong words, indeed, a clear rebuke, but they were infused with faith, the kind of faith that my grandpa had demonstrated in refusing to give up in seeing my uncle healed. They were words that came from the same faith that Dave had demonstrated towards me in giving me room to grow. It was a faith that demonstrated that God was just as concerned about one person as he was with hundreds. If I wasn’t faithful with one or two, how could I be faithful with more?
UNDER-PROMISE - OVER-DELIVER
I decided from that day on, I would, by the grace of God, be faithful with whatever God entrusted me and never despise the day of small beginnings. I decided that I would be a person who, by the grace of God, would endeavor to keep my promises. I decided that I would always do my best, by the grace of God, to under-promise, and over-deliver. While I couldn't commit to everything, what I did commit to, I would do with all my heart. During my sabbatical, I was reading through the books of Joshua, Judges, Kings, and Chronicles, and it struck me how important it was for people to "just show up" when called upon. Over and over this came up in the narratives. Just show up!
Presently, now as a lead pastor, as I engage with our kids and youth at VEV, one of the things I’ve found them most sensitive to is broken promises. Their hearts that were made to trust can stop trusting because they often can't believe what adults say they will do. They don’t need bling, pizazz, or the latest flavour of the month. They need integrity, credibility, and people who keep their commitments. Only God can help us do that and God knows that sometimes it’s difficult to keep a commitment even when we have had the best of intentions. We can get sick, something can go sideways beyond our control, and circumstances can change drastically. But, we can still keep the spirit of our commitment. We can find creative alternatives like, “Hey, it’s impossible for me to do this now, but how about if I do this instead...?" In that spirit, there is much grace to be found. Yes, we need to under-promise and over-deliver. We need to be slow and careful about making promises, but we must make them none-the-less. Then, when we do make them, we must fulfill what we've said we would do.
Perhaps the greatest "sign and wonder" in our day is credibility and integrity. Thank you Dave, because your loving butt-kicking rebuke formatively changed my life!
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? 2 The one… keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; Whoever does these things will never be shaken (Psalm 15).