As many have now seen or heard, Ben Ellis, a teacher in our community at Christ Presbyterian Academy, had quite a last week here on earth. Millions of views on YouTube aside, Ben was truly the kindest person I have ever met. I count myself and my children fortunate to have known him and better yet to have been known by him. Because to be known by Ben Ellis is a gift that keeps on giving. What made Ben special? How he treated everyone he met. It’s truly that simple. He lived a life led by the Holy Spirit and with a love for Christ that spilled out in everything he did. Story after story at his funeral pointed to the various ways he had loved those around him just the way they needed to be loved.
Before I knew his days here were coming to a close, I already had a blog post in mind related to him. A friend told me about a recent interaction one of her children had with Ben since graduating. This student had been suspended for behavior related to a sporting event. A very hard and public punishment. Ben, of course, was gracious during the time of shame and communicated to the student that “This is NOT who you are.”
Years later Ben asked this student to return to Christ Presbyterian Academy and share about a recent missions trip and all that entailed. After speaking, Ben took the time to affirm her by saying “This is who you are.” and letting her know that although he remembered the suspension, he knew who she really was and he was so pleased to see her fully embracing all God had for her.
Upon hearing that story from her deeply touched mother, I had the realization that when we throw out “speaking the truth in love” we usually mean telling someone a hard truth about them that we feel they need to know. Ben spoke truth to all of us by telling us all the good God sees when he looks at us. He affirmed that God-given part of us that wants to be better.
15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:15 (NIV)
How can we help one another see the spiritual growth we are each experiencing? It’s so important to acknowledge evidence of sanctification in others. Instead of being so focused on how people disappoint us, let’s look for all the good ways people surprise us. Ben looked for the good in everyone he crossed paths with, I want to be more like Ben.