One of my Bible teachers this semester ends several of his lessons with a personal assignment. It’s never graded or anything, but I think it’s more spiritually important than educational. He tells the class to think of someone who needs to be prayed for, someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, etc. One day, the challenge was to think of someone who had been a spiritual hero in your life and thank them.
To be completely honest, as much as I appreciate the ideas behind the exercise, I really didn’t think much of it, let alone call up someone to thank them. But then, a few days later, my roommate Hollee asked for my help with her Bible assignment. Essentially she had to discuss her faith story with someone and listen to their testimony as well. So when she asked me what or who influenced my faith the most, I thought back to that assignment about spiritual heroes.
My answer for both questions was the same: my uncle Robert.
As I said in my first column, my goal this year is to challenge everyone who reads my writings, and to promote growth in their life spiritually, culturally and intellectually. My inspiration for this theme came from my spiritual hero.
The summer after my freshman year at Harding was when I finally got my driver’s license, my first car, my first job and a ton of lectures from practically every adult in my life about being responsible and making good choices. Out of all those lectures, there was really only one that made an impact on me, and it came from Uncle Robert.
He went on for a while about how important is was for him to be able to trust me to make my own decisions and how, up until that point, my aunt had made all of them for me. I was raised by my aunt and uncle and, as much as I hated to admit it, he was right. I hadn’t really made any of my own decisions.
So I decided to cut most of my hair off and get a pixie cut, even though my uncle was extremely against the idea.
That was my first big solo decision. I felt the weight leaving my shoulders as my hair fell to the floor. Then this past summer, when my hair had grown out, I got my helix pierced — something I’d wanted to do for a long while but had been too scared to ask my aunt and uncles’ permission. When I finally did tell them that I wanted the piercing, Uncle Robert essentially said no, but I did it anyways. I usually try to keep my hair down when I visit because I know he still doesn’t like my piercing.
But these changes became symbolic to me. They were and are physical representations of me coming into my own. They represent a change being made in my life — a change I chose. Every time I brush my hair back and notice the hoop through my upper ear, I’m reminded that I alone am responsible for my actions and decisions.
Since then, I have rarely called my aunt or uncle before making decisions. I feel confident that I can make my own choices and that I know what’s best for me. It took me a while to get comfortable with this, but I was eventually able to break away and do my own thing.
Uncle Robert taught me the value of education and hard work as well as the importance of a close relationship with God. Looking back, I can see how much he and my aunt influenced my ability to decipher right from wrong and the reasoning I use to make decisions. My success now is a direct result of the solid foundation they built in me as a kid.
I hope that Uncle Robert can now say that he trusts me to make the right choices for myself, and that he can feel confident in the values he instilled in me. I also hope I remember to thank him for not only being my spiritual hero, but also for always challenging and encouraging me as I now hope to do for others.