A recent feel good story got only modest play in the everyday tsunami of bad news. Gainesville State School is a Texas juvenile correction facility for felony offenders. The school fields a basketball team that gets to make a few visits outside of the facility to play games. One of the givens is that the Gainesville Tornadoes cheering section will be non-existent. That bothered some of the students at Vanguard College Preparatory School in Waco, Texas and they decided to do something about it.
The students organized a cheering section for Gainesville when they traveled to Waco in January. T-Shirts were produced with the Tornadoe's logo and the words "We Believe" across the bottom. The cheerleading squad was split in half and they wore the black and white for Gainesville instead of their familiar green and white colors. Vanguard fans wore black in support of the visiting team.
The Tornadoe players had no idea what was about to happen when they ran on the court. They ran, awkwardly at first, through a cheering line of students and fans. The look on their faces morphed from surprise to joy as they realized that someone was cheering for and not against them.
Fans in the stands dabbed tears from their eyes as they got caught up in the moment. After the game the players said they would never forget this moment. Head Coach Walt Scott noted that it is not often that his players get encouragement.
These young men had made some very bad decisions to get them to the Gainesville facility. They were suffering the consequences of those bad decisions. But the message they heard that one night was a message of affirmation. That you are important. Redemption is possible. Someone does believe in you. Hopefully that message will be a literal game changer for many of those young men.
Affirmation is a game changer for all of us. Here is a snippet from one of my favorite chapters in Stay about the power of affirmation. No creature does a better job of affirmation that our canine friends.
We should not be surprised that people respond positively when they are told how much they matter. More important, we matter to God. His Word is full of affirmation for those who choose to trust Him.
To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.
(John 1:12, NLT)
You are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
(1 Peter 2:9-10, The Message)
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
(Ephesians 1:4, NLT)
We are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)
No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
(John 15:15, ESV)
Jesus calls me His friend. Even when those around you are failing to fill up your affirmation bucket, you can still go to Scripture and find out how God feels about you. Is there a more important affirmation than that? When you believe that your heavenly Father recognizes your worth, it gets easier to find things to affirm in others. How can I suffer from a poor self-image if this is true? Jesus calls me friend, for goodness’ sake!
Don’t miss a chance to affirm others. Be intentional, making it a way of life. Hannah has me enrolled in intensive affirmation training. Every time my canine instructor sees me, she treats me like the most important person in the world. Her exuberance never fails to warm my heart.
Affirmation is a powerful tool of God's redemptive grace. For many of those young men who traveled to Waco that night it might have been the very first time that they heard a message of grace. Grace says you can still be loved and accepted even after you make terrible decisions and do bad things. That is exactly what happened when God reached out to love me (and you) after our own terrible decisions and bad actions. God delights in redeeming bad people because, as Tullian Tchvidjian so accurately states it, that is all He has to work with.
Affirm someone in your life today. When you see someone who is loved and admired by everyone I suspect you will find this common trait. They are a full time affirmation bucket filler for everyone around them. Are you willing to swap judgement for affirmation? It will be a game changer for you and those you affirm.