I love when students reach out to me saying the Lord put something on their heart and they want to share it with our community (yes, you could do that too!). The journey through Speech and Debate is unique, we are each are on our own path. Yet, I love where we intersect, learn lessons, and share what we have learned with others. Regardless of the year you had last year, I hope you can reflect back and think about what the Lord was pressing upon you… are you ready for a new season!?
If There is Anything Excellent by: Cate Baldacci
We often emphasize the blessings of community and fellowship derived from our time in the league, and rightly so, but I think Christian Speech and Debate, and specifically for me, Speech and Debate is about more than just making life-long friendships and pulling all-nighters to finish debate research…
One thing I’ve been pondering lately is the idea of excellence, the kind that goes beyond just skillfully winning arguments. After joining the league as a junior, watching my siblings compete for 4 years, and competing for 6 years myself, the thrill of doing well and even the concept of refining “life-long skills” started feeling temporary, intangible, and trivial to me. I felt like an even deeper sense of purpose was absent from my outlook on the pursuit of excellence. Why give so much effort to fostering critical skills? Why do we strive for success in life anyway?
Maybe these seem like rudimentary questions, but years of what felt like “going through the motions” left me sojourning for answers which would renew my perspective and motivation.
During this past National Championship I felt like maybe God gave me an answer. My region (Region 6) was blessed with the opportunity to get together during the week, despite the fact that COVID left us competing online. I remember walking away from that time feeling so edified. After having suffered with my friends through a long year of disorientation, loneliness, and confusion, coming together again made me realize what a precious gift the Speech and Debate environment was, and how much I had taken it for granted.
More importantly, what I observed in my peers, through fellowship and competition, was an enduring energy and passion, which inspired me greatly–to be a better competitor, a better friend, and a better servant of the Lord. Their love of life and community had lead each one of them to joyfully improvise in our unideal situation and their desire for brilliance had them working many long hours in preparation for competition. In all this, whether they realized it or not, I noticed a confidence in something transcendent. Their devotion to touching their audiences with much-needed encouragement during a difficult time was fueled by a pursuit of excellence–not just for awards or life-long skills–but because they were clinging to the promise that he who began a good work in them would bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.
So yes, Speech and Debate is about making memories with people you love and sometimes intense labor—but on a much deeper level, it is about learning to pursue what is good, while confidently waiting on the Lord to work through us. He intends to do immeasurably more than we could ever imagine through our temporary efforts. The relationships we build and the skills we refine are just a means to an end. They are designed to draw us into a deeper satisfaction in God and make our hearts delight in and yearn for what is eternal.
At the end of the day, not even COVID could hinder me from growing with my friends and communicating God’s truth to others, because Christ was the end goal. Serving him and trusting him for the end result—that is what it means to be excellent, and that is what kept me going when I didn’t even realize it.
Just a few days ago I was reading Philippians 4:8, where Paul exhorts the Church to fix their attention on anything excellent, just, commendable, or lovely. This made me realize: how we spend our lives will reveal what we consider worthy of our mental, emotional, and spiritual energy.
When I was meditating on this verse, the Lord impressed on my heart that the most lovely and excellent thing my mind could dwell on was Christ. The most true and just person worthy of my attention is Christ. When my gaze is fixed on Jesus, and when I glory in what He has done for me, His love starts to saturate every part of my life. His all-sufficient grace empowers me to be holy as He is holy. Paul is implicitly admonishing us here, not just to turn our eyes from evil, but he’s telling us that the way out of sin is to cling to righteousness. Fix your attention on Christ. What does this have to do with excellence you might ask? Well, if God himself loves excellence, loves holiness, loves righteousness, then so should I.
How we spend our lives will reveal what we consider worthy of our energy. Time is precious, and who you spend it with and for matters. The good news is, we were created by God to leave a legacy for His glory, and what better way to do that than by building God’s kingdom on earth. We are to represent Christ to those around us, delight in the fellowship and the gifts and the opportunities God has put on our doorstep, so that no matter where we are in life we can use the tools he has given us to glorify Him.
Ultimately, the pursuit of excellence is an ongoing one, and one unique to each person. But let us be confident of this: that our God delights in excellence, and so should we.