Dancing with Blisters
I’ve had the chance in 30+ years of ministry to lay my hands on and commission hundreds of young leaders in missions and church planting. For a number of them, I’ve led them in a service of ordination for ministry. I have a prayer that I have prayed over many of them: “Lord, give them tough skin and a tender heart.”
That prayer is borne out of experience with Jesus and ministry to people. It’s a prayer that has proven itself. It is important. You are going to have to get tough skin if you stay with Jesus. The problem is that it is also easy to get a tough heart.
In the Winter of 2011, I had the privilege of leading “A Father’s Heart Forum.” It turned out to be one of the highlights of my ministry. My led the worship. I spoke at one of the main sessions and my father spoke at the other. Three generations led in ministry that day. I could not have been more proud of our family’s continuing heritage in Jesus.
My father spoke a message that I had never heard him speak before. It was entitled: “The Things I Learned from My Father.” He spoke about his father, his namesake: Harry Richard Stevenson, Sr.
My grandfather was a farmer and a master builder. He planted crops, built houses and made furniture. He worked three jobs during the depression to provide for his family. He was a stern disciplinarian. His hands were just one big callus. His heart was pretty hard as well. He didn’t give his life to Jesus until he was in his 70’s.
I will never forget hearing my dad tell this story about his father.
“I remember the first time your grandfather said anything encouraging to me. I had just finished building a room on to our cottage near the shore in New Jersey. He came to inspect my work. I just sat down and let him look at the room. I fully anticipated that he would come back and tell me where all of my mistakes were. When he came back into the room where I was, he sat down and said: ‘That’s a good job Harry.”
As my dad was telling me this story, he was in his 70’s and he was crying. He said: “that was the first time your grandfather said anything encouraging to me. I was 39 years old.”
My grandfather had tough skin and a tough heart. But my dad was different and I saw it clearly as he was preaching at our Father’s Heart Forum. He didn’t cover up my grandfather’s weaknesses as he spoke on the things he learned from him. But he had found the rays of grace that streamed through my grandfather’s toughness and he spoke with gratitude, not regret. He spoke not as a victim, but victorious because of Jesus.
That’s the power of a tough skin and a tender heart.
It comes from dancing with blisters.
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