Over the past few days, I have been involved in judging some theatre competitions, which I absolutely love. I get notice of the pieces so I can familiarize myself with any that I don’t know. I enjoy watching the live performances, and on the scoring sheets we get an opportunity to share notes on the performance so that they can improve for future competitions.
This past weekend was for High School students. It’s an interesting space to judge because they are old enough to be more frank and direct (especially the seniors heading to college), but I am often reminded that they are in fact students. They’ve had maybe 1-2 teachers influencing them, probably not workshops on the weekends and intensives over the summer.
I’ve judged these competitions in various districts over the state, but this weekend was in a new district and I was eager to meet new faces (judges) and see a new group of students. Hands down, every district I have attended has had some of the most friendly judges. Those who have been doing it for a while are happy to help the newer judges through the process. It’s always been a fun space to be apart of, people who are not just judging but really care about helping these students hone their craft.
This weekend, it was different.
I was the first judge there, sipping on my coffee. When she entered the space, she walked with such confidence as if this was old hat to her. To my surprise it was her first time judging this particular district. She rattled off big, impressive words. I’m not sure if the purpose was to qualify herself to me… or set the tone that she was a professional regardless of who I was.
The second judge entered, like a diva onto a stage. She was a queen. She was running the show. As we watched the performers, we were not allowed to speak to the performers, but in the technical portions we could. Immediately it became time to impress the teachers, students, and parents in the space with their knowledge and expertise. There I sat, just listening and looking. One was intent on pointing out flaws. The other was insistent about teaching from her experience. Their questions to the students were set up to trip the student up and give the judge platform to teach versus to listen to how the student came to their conclusions and decisions.
It was interesting to me, as an observer of this. If these were college students, or professionals entering some sort of competition, then you have an expectation of excellence … and certainly at this juncture you would want to share your experience and wisdom with them. For a group of high school students, who many were 9th graders competing for the first time, there is a gentler approach. Instead of shouting the wisdom of the sages at them, asking them the right questions to get their minds thinking is going to go much further.
I thought about this in relations to conferences and retreats. Sometimes the speakers come in, and because they’ve been given the platform, they elevate themselves. They use big words and concepts, trying to establish the providence that they deserve to be in that spot. When sometimes, what they really need to do is speak plainly to the heart of those who are listening. Jesus knew how to put His message to the crowds in terms they would understand, that they were familiar with. They didn’t get hung up on fancy words or ideas, but rather could soak in the words that were plain and simple.
I think of the Pharisees with their long prayers set out to impress the people with their knowledge and godliness… that fell flat because of it’s lack of humility.
If God has given me a platform, I shouldn’t have to prove that I earned it. Why? Because I am there to give the spotlight to God, not myself. I should have a willingness to share my vulnerabilities and iniquities as an evidence to a God who equips the called… and sometimes those he called are coming from a mess. But what is seems like a hurdle today can be used for God’s glory tomorrow. When I am willing to share my humbled self, God gets to be on full display.
When a woman comes to me for counsel, this is not the opportunity to puff myself up and make it appear like I have it all together. An attempt to stand on a platform of the “Perfect Wife”, “Perfect Parent”, “Perfect Christian”, etc.; as if I am some sort of expert. When instead of listening with the intent of figuring out how I am going to respond, advise, direct, or sell my own self… I should be listening to ask the questions that will cause them to think and come to answers on their own. Advising and directing as God leads and prompts.