I was tired. Worn out. All I could think about was the minutes (or hours) counting down until I would be fast asleep in the comfort of my own bed.

You have to understand, I had just spent the last few days at a retreat where I was one of only five guys in attendance. I was there as a panel speaker, an event sponsor, and to serve a friend who was fulfilling her dream to encourage others to pursue their dreams. I’m not saying it was a bad experience being around that many women for a whole weekend, but I did suffer withdrawals from having any kind of meaningful conversation about important things like grilling, fixing things, or the upcoming NFL draft. Women like to talk, but not usually about awesome man stuff like that.

So as a dude, I was looking forward to the first opportunity I would have to hide-out in a virtual man-cave and relax in silence.

But, nope. Not this time.

This time the seat next to me on the airplane home would be filled by one of the women from the retreat. And because I made this trip to serve others, I had to stay “on” for a little while longer.

So I asked questions, and she shared. I knew the questions I was asking weren’t easy ones like, “How about the weather this weekend?” or “Who do you think the Chiefs are going to take with the first pick in the draft?” Instead, I asked questions that required deep responses. I asked questions that would ultimately open all kinds of doors; doors that an exhausted man normally wouldn’t have the energy to open.

What I found was a woman wounded by circumstances in life she could never control. Wounded by people who had no business putting expectations and judgment on her like they did. Unfortunately, far too often this is the kind of life experienced by a pastor’s kid.

It reminded me of another pastor’s kid I know. For him, the pressure was so great that he started drinking at about 14 or 15 years old. By the time he turned 21 he was an alcoholic who wound up in the ER after blacking out. His life is different now, but only because someone chose to speak life into him.

And as I watched the woman on the plane pour out her heart, I felt prodded to look at her with a heart of compassion. You know that the word compassion means “to suffer with,” not “to feel sorry for,” right? And then she told me that she’d rather be out meeting the needs of the downtrodden than to be sitting in a church with the people who judge and condemn her.

That’s when it hit me. Even though she feels beat down by life, her heart is still to bless other people. Her heart is to lift people up.

That’s when I told her that I admire her.

I’ll never forget the look of shock and confusion on her face. She looked like she couldn’t understand how someone like me could ever look up to her when so many people like me have looked down on her.

I told her that I admired her because no matter how bad things have gotten in her life, she still looked at the world with the heart of God. Her heart beat in rhythm with His. I told her that I admired people like her who have had more than their share of crap dumped all over them, yet still pursue hope and redemption for the least of these.

I know those words affected her deeply.

She needed someone to speak life to her. I could almost see the healing happening when my words started sinking in.

We all need people to speak life to us, don’t we?

And that’s a mission that’s more important than any other self-centered desire to tune someone out and rest.

So speak Life, speak Life.
To the deadest darkest night.
Speak life, speak Life.
When the sun won’t shine and you don’t know why.
Look into the eyes of the brokenhearted;
Watch them come alive as soon as you speak hope,
You speak love, you speak…
You speak Life, You speak Life.

~ TobyMac

speak life

by Dan King time to read: 4 min