The Joy of Standing Up

I could feel my heart pounding. My hands trembled so badly, I couldn’t even hold a pencil. I stared down at my notebook and saw a single tear splash onto the blank paper.

Only minutes before, I had raised my hand to defend my faith. It was the second week of history class, and my professor was insulting and ridiculing much of Christianity. It was ironic because he had just finished saying that he didn’t want to challenge anyone in their beliefs; he respected whatever we wanted to believe in. But as he stood there, calling people who believed in one God and lived by the Bible “naive” and “intolerant,” and who thought being gay was wrong “morons,” I knew I couldn’t just keep my mouth shut. I felt the Holy Spirit burning inside me, and as I raised my hand, I wasn’t even sure what I was going to say.

But I prayed for words as my professor called on me.

I pointed out that he had said he didn’t want to insult anyone, but he was pretty much insulting everything that I hold dear. As I tried to explain that I was a Christian, he cut me off saying that he was a Catholic and I was no more “religious” than he was. I barely had a chance to answer before he continued to rant about his views. I wanted to tell him that he was wrong, that faith is so much more than just religion—it’s about denying yourself and following Christ. God’s standard becomes your standard. But in the moment, it was all I could do to keep up with his questions.

One after another, he asked them. A student even asked me a question. For twenty minutes I felt like I was being put on trial. Why is there evil in the world? How does someone get to heaven? Do Christians believe being gay is wrong? “Lord, give me words,” I prayed the entire time. And He did.

I was able through His strength to share the Gospel with my class and my professor.

Immediately afterwards, I felt discouraged and crushed. There was so much I wish I had said, so many ways I fell short and so many times my voice caught and my words got jumbled together. I wasn’t embarrassed or anything, but I felt like I had somehow failed in showing people the truth.

But as I continued to reflect, I thought of a passage I had read only the night before: Exodus 9:15-16. In it, God is proclaiming His power against Pharaoh and says,

For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.

I felt these words resonate in my own heart. He has raised me up, put me in that class, at that time, with the knowledge I had, all for His name. All for His glory.

It had nothing to do with me.

He could have had the situation go a thousand different ways, but His plans and purposes are higher than mine. He gave me the words He wanted me to speak. He prepared the hearts of those He wanted to listen. All I did was speak. And now I am abundantly blessed in knowing I followed my Lord where He told me to go. I pray for my professor and the students in that class, that they may someday know the redeeming love of the Savior and the indescribable joy and freedom that His truth brings.

—Hailey Smith studies Elementary Education at Brookdale Community College and will graduate in May 2019.