April 24, 2012
This past Sunday, our Youth led the worship service, reflecting on the heroes God has given to us. One of the students who spoke was Aubrey Nelson, a Senior at AC Reynolds High School in Asheville, NC. Aubrey is a gifted musician who sings like a bird and plays her flute like an angel. Her comments Sunday spoke to my own conviction that God often uses music to draw us to the throne of Grace. I asked Aubrey if she would allow me to publish her reflection here and she has graciously agreed.
Aubrey's Hero by Aubrey Nelson 2012
It is so much easier to be by ourselves.
Now, you're probably thinking I got that backwards. If you're anything like me, you're much more comfortable when someone is physically with you...talking to you, laughing at your jokes, shielding you from that dreaded image of being alone that has become somewhat of a stigma in our fast-paced, loud, busy culture. In fact, if the feeling I just described sounds at all familiar to you, you're part of the 70% of American society who labels themselves as extroverts...people who would rather be around people. But as much time as many of us spend surrounded by the talking, laughing, storytelling, and general comforting presence of others, we are truly alone...emotionally and spiritually alone. Sure, we've got all kinds of people all around us - friends, teachers, parents, coworkers, pastors, conductors, coaches - but are we listening to them? Are we soaking up what they have to say and allowing their words to change us? Or are we letting their wisdom, their experience, their uniqueness as people go right over our heads, convinced that we have all the answers?
Ernest Hemingway, the great 20th century American author, once said, "as you get older it is harder to have heroes, but it is sort of necessary." While graduating seniors such as myself are facing many apparent, obvious decisions this year - what college we'll attend, what we'll major in, what career we want to pursue - I have no doubt that everybody in this room, from elementary school students preparing to step into the frighteningly unfamiliar world of middle school, to recent college graduates who just don't know what to do with or make of their lives, to senior adults facing the painful aloneness of losing their loved ones, is encountering some sort of choice, dilemma, or question they just cannot answer. And while I'm far from discounting the great and important power of independence, confidence, and belief in oneself, we often rely on ourselves for answers to such a great extent that we take out more than we can give back. So then, if we Americans are so constantly surrounded by people, why don't we try to learn from them instead of using them as a security blanket? And instead of criticizing them, why don't we teach them? We all need someone - or something - to remind us that we don't know everything and that we do, in fact, need each other.
Though we typically assume heroic figures to be people, I think that intangible activities and experiences often take on the most powerful heroic positions in our lives. As most of you know, I'm an avid musician, and I feel that music has been my own personal "hero"...it's shown me the rewarding nature of hard work, it's taught me how to lose with dignity and win with grace, and it's demonstrated for me the satisfaction and happiness that comes from creative expression. These are all lessons I could not have spontaneously learned on my own. A "heroic activity", so to speak, doesn't have to be one you do on a regular basis...even a one-time experience, such as hearing an inspiring concert or seeing an emotionally wounded person smile for the first time in months, can have a drastic, wonderful influence on the way we think and feel.
Genesis 1:27 tells us that each person is created in the image of God. I think that this is one of the most commonly (and regrettably) overlooked aspects of our Christian faith...that EACH person, rich or poor, dark or light-skinned, man or woman, left or right-brain dominant, high or low GPA or SAT score, is a little piece of God, a snippet of his glory and a small-scale manifestation of his great intentions for the world. With that scripture in mind, I think it's safe to say that ALL people are heroes. We each have experience, wisdom, talents, and ideas which cannot be found, and never will be found, in any person other than ourselves. And as the class of 2012, along with every other subgroup of the world, ventures on through the challenges and questions which make up the wonderfully confusing journey of life, we have a divine responsibility to see the hero in every person and every experience.
Aubrey is the daughter of Mike and Luann Nelson, and the twin sister of David Nelson. She has won countless honors for her musical gifts. Aubrey attends the University of South Carolina in Columbia.