by Rhonda Loucks
I have just come inside from the outdoors, and my rocks have not moved. There have been no adjustments at all. I live in the Great Plains and they have named it that for a reason. Actually, I live in the flat part of the Great Plains. So, when I say “rocks” be sure that I am not talking about mountains, formations, elevations, hills or even boulders. I am talking about rocks; the kind of rocks that you buy here at an amazing price and then haul to your own property to very particular places that you have planned to put a few in and around flower beds and gardens. And, I am quite certain that my rocks have not moved; they are still.
We were at an awards ceremony last evening and that event is what got me to thinking about whether or not my rocks have been moving. My daughter was honored for her academic achievements. She is a straight-A student and is about to graduate from high school with the honorable title of Valedictorian. As I sat and listened to the explanation of awards – and then watched those receiving the awards collect their certificates – no one applauded. There were some smiles and nods but mostly just awkward silence while we listened to the tip-toeing of those being honored making their way through the tables, toward the front, and then back to their seats again. I looked around for clues. I read the program to make sure I hadn’t missed some new “no applause” instruction. Nothing! No explanation! There was just strange silence.
The more I tried to reason this thing out in my mind, the more frustrated I became. The people sitting around me knew all of the students getting these awards. They knew them by name and knew their parents’ names and probably what teachers they had in the third grade. In fact, I knew who was sitting around me and had heard these same people yelling out the very same names of these students at ball games and sporting events. How was this different? Was it not appropriate here? Should cheering and applause be withheld because of where we were? Had we become complacent with such amazing accomplishments? Or worse, were these accomplishments not worthy of such admiration?
I think not! I’m sure that whooping and yelling was not appropriate at this more formal setting, but cheering and praise and applause were most definitely called for. Everyone in attendance knew those whom were being honored and knew what it had cost each recipient to achieve such honors: hours of homework and study, re-writing papers the fourth time, pushing themselves, simply being disciplined to the academics instead of relaxing on the weekends. These kids deserved public praise. And yet, there was almost none. The audience had not been moved. They were not honoring those that they had come to honor. They were allowing a certificate and a token – a piece of paper and a chunk of metal – to speak for them.
A week ago we were at an awards assembly for our son. Things were completely different. It was a very similar setting, but the awards were less significant. These awards were based on just one semester’s efforts and not the academic discipline of several years. No less important in my book; just less significant. As the students being honored were called, instant applause broke out in the room. Not the timed and rhythmic clapping of a crowd who was expected to participate but the enthusiastic applause of real appreciation for both the accomplishment and those who had worked hard to accomplish it.
As the students walked forward in this setting, they were briefly stopped and congratulated. Men stood to shake their hands and others patted them on the back and shoulders as the students progressed to the front. Distinguished comments came from across the crowd in echoes: “Good job son,” “Way to go,” “We’re so proud of you,” “Nice work,” “Congratulations, you really deserve this.” There was no awkward silence, only the expressed feelings of genuine support and appreciation.
Now I, so you know, am an extremist. I think that if you are going to do something than you should do it as big as you possibly can. I’m not uncivilized however. And, I’m not without social graces. I know there are appropriate times and places for certain actions. I don’t whistle in church. Well actually, I can’t whistle. But if I could, I would not whistle in church; at least not in the sanctuary.
However, I did clap at my daughter’s award ceremony when no one else was clapping. When she and her classmates were being called to the front and were being recognized for 3.75 to 4.0 grade point averages – for up to 13 concurrent years of academic performance – well, I clapped. And, since it was me, I did it big.
I didn’t think about it or consider it. I just heard myself clapping. Many seemed startled around me, then a few joined in and then finally everyone. I’ll admit, by the time my daughter was announced, the shock had worn off and most were clapping naturally; some even clapped enthusiastically. Either way, I’m glad it was within me to set the standard. And although when I heard myself alone in applause I instantly felt embarrassed and considered stopping, the next classmate was announced, and I just couldn’t stop. She too, really deserved my praise.
So I checked my rocks to see if they had moved, and they had not. And I was so, so very glad. Actually, I spent the night in private prayer asking the Lord if I had disappointed Him in neglecting to honor Him; for He is so worthy. I searched my heart and my mind for times when I should have shown Him more appreciation. Had I sung out the praises of His mercy? Had I applauded enthusiastically for His willing patience and forgiveness? Had I remembered His great sacrifice, His great accomplishment through that sacrifice, and had I whistled in honor of them? When I could have, should have, did I jump up and let everyone around me know just how much I love and respect Him? Or, did I let a rock speak for me? Did I?
Even the rocks know that they should praise Him.
His very presence demands movement from His creation.
If we do not choose to praise Him, the rocks will.
He is so worthy of my honor.
My rocks will remain still, because I choose to praise Him.
Have your rocks been moving?
Rhonda D. Loucks is an author, wife, mother, Sunday School teacher and member of Wichita First Church of the Nazarene. More of her writings are available at uncutobedience.com.