What is your place of influence? We often live our lives as if no one else notices us. The attitude of “what I do is my business, and it hurts no one but me simply isn’t true. No matter who we are, our lives always touch someone else’s. “No man is an island apart from the whole. One can argue that a baby doesn’t influence anyone, but ponder for a moment that thought. Expectant parents may take a particular job, eat different foods for the sake of their child or live in a neighborhood where there are other children. Everyone impacts someone. Even the beggar on the street who may touch our heart to give, or irritate us because they are not working, influences us by their existence.
So the question becomes, what is the impact of MY influence? Many of the young men who come to the PAYH often tell us they started hanging out with the wrong group. Obviously, those who influenced them did so negatively! Jesus told us to “go out into all the world and make disciples of men. Therefore as Christians we cannot just exist. There is within the heart of all who love Christ, a desire to love our fellowman and to make a difference, as much as possible, for His sake in feeding “good stuff into those lives we touch. I believe that is what Paul Anderson felt when he saw young boys being placed in jail with older, hardened criminals; he recognized that the experienced criminal’s influence could destroy any hope of rehabilitation. In contrast, the Paul Anderson Youth Home came into existence to favorably influence young lives for good.
We may then look at someone like Lee Harvey Oswald, who, as a boy was terribly abused and unloved, his life had experienced only harsh and brutal treatment. He reacted likewise, as he became an unfeeling psychotic murderer. The influences in our early lives develop who we become. Without positive input, we as members of society become negative, unfeeling, and uncaring.
Only God, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit can truly provide freedom. With Him, even if imprisoned, we can be free, as His power provides that for us.
As a child, hearing bad language usually told me that my parents had been consuming alcohol. I remember coming home from school looking into their eyes and knowing immediately if they had been drinking. The moment when I recognized it, I knew it was not going to be a good day. My father hated to hear God’s name taken in vain, yet when he was drinking, which usually brought on anger over something, or anything, his words were mean and surely inappropriate for a child. Today, those words are as common as yes and no. The negative influence of our present culture has loosened the tongues of parents to the point of little children now saying “oh my G as a part of their conversation.
Growing up in a home that was, much of the time, unstable, it would have been difficult for me to overcome all that influenced me as a child. But I had a grandmother who must have prayed for me often and who loved the Lord. After my mother died when I was nine, I would cross the street every afternoon from the school to my grandmother’s house as I waited on someone to pick me up. She was not a warm woman, she did not pull me onto her lap and assure me of her love; but I saw in her a love for the Lord. She exuded strength from which I drew security. Her influence in my life made all the difference. Though she died when I was 11, I can still see her even now, in her dark long dress, old lady lace up shoes, black of course, with her permed grey wavy hair, sitting in her chair with her magnifying glass, studying the Bible as she did every day. She had no idea that the image of her was being set in my mind for eternity, but it was and is.
I often ask myself, what will my grandchildren remember about me? At the age of 73, I no longer ride roller coasters or motor cycles. I wear out more quickly and go to bed much earlier. I have not spent as much time with them as I had hoped I would when they were born. But my prayer has been that there would be something in my life which will influence them as my grandmother’s image has influenced me these many years. She was clearly hungry for more knowledge of God and His Son as she constantly read His Word. If I can only leave them with the knowledge of my love for Christ, obedience to Him, and my desire to share Him with others, then that image of me in their hearts and minds will be enough.
It is extremely important for us to constantly ask ourselves if our behavior is that which would bring glory to our Creator, our Savior, and honor to our family and to ourselves. We are going to influence those around us one way or another; we cannot remain neutral. Let us influence with the love of our Savior, always ready to give reason for the hope that is in us.
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