Summary: Montgomery Hills Baptist Church: To live large means dealing with the pain inflicted on us. Some of it comes from our arrogance, some from scapegoating. But God is able to work through that pain toward the accomplishment of His purposes.

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There is at my house a photograph I treasure. In that picture I am about three years old, and my father is holding me in his arms. My father is wearing the cap of a Shell Oil service station attendant. Nothing especially remarkable about that, except for what I hear in my memory whenever I see it. I hear over and over again my grandparents – my mother’s parents, not his -- saying, “Oh, you know your dad failed at running that station. He was no businessman. Gave people credit, and they didn’t pay. Ran the business into the ground, had to give it up. Failure.” That is exactly the word they would use. My grandparents saw their son-in-law as a failure. Too bad about Everett Smith. That was their theme, that was their interpretation of his life story, and whatever else he did seemed to count for very little. In the minds of his in-laws, there was only one interpretation of my dad’s life: failure. What sort of pain do you think that injected into my father’s spirit?

As a pastor, I have listened to a good many people tell their life stories. I’ve found that when they do, they speak about their pain. Listen just a little while, and people will describe for you how something scarred them. They will tell you about the cutting comment that stayed with them for years. They will speak about the caustic criticism they never quite shook off. They will tell you how they were put down or discredited or misunderstood, and that stays with them. Far more than all the positive words they received, people who tell you a life story will eventually tell you their cries of pain.

Do you have a life story like that? A life story that somebody might call a failure? A life story scarred by criticism, messed up by misunderstanding? Few there are who do not have something to look back on, and it hurts us still. We look back in anger, or in disappointment, or in fear. Something we have done, and we are still afraid it may catch up with us; or something done to us, and we don’t feel we ever got over it. We feel wounded.

Just speaking about this, I can remember harsh things that people said to me when I was as young as ten or twelve years old. “Clumsy ox – I don’t want you on MY softball team.” “Piano practice – that’s for sissies.” “I suppose you got an A again – teacher’s pet.” Stuff that stings! You say, “Get over it”, and I have. But my life story, and yours, I’m guessing, includes some painful moments. In the words of the old spiritual, “My soul looks back and wonders how I got over.”

I know of a man who had a bright future as a youngster. He was so intelligent and capable, so much the apple of his parents’ eye. This young man, part of a large family, was a standout. Something about him just caught your attention, and you knew he had tremendous potential. He was so brilliant, and his parents just couldn’t do enough for him. They gave him all sorts of advantages. They showered gifts on their standout son. This young man was born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth, and everything was set to go for a very successful life.

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