To the Speech and Debaters Who Are Missing Regionals by: Arianna Richardson

Our dear friend, Arianna, was feeling a heavy heart this week for her friends who missed a Regional Tournament. Arianna is a Speech and Debate Alumni, she graduated last year in 2019.

The 2016 Omaha Qualifier will always remain vividly ingrained in my mind. It was the last Region 5 qualifier in the season, I hadn’t broken yet, and I desperately wanted to break. As the tournament progressed, I tried my hardest with my events. Several of my events went the best they’d gone all season at that tournament, and I was convinced I’d finally break. However, when break announcements rolled around, my name was not one of the names called, and finally, during the awards ceremony, the fact that I was not going to Regionals hit home. I still remember the tears streaming down my face after the awards ceremony as one of the seniors whom I’d spent a lot of time with pulled me in for a hug.

I’ve been there. You’ve probably been there too, if not in previous years, then definitely this year with the cancelations due to Covid-19. I’ll be the first to admit: it’s frustrating and disheartening. But God’s plans aren’t always our plans, and furthermore, we aren’t defined by what we do, but by how God has worked in our lives. So, to the NCFCAer missing Regionals, I’d like to both challenge and encourage you: first, to trust in God, but secondly, to remember how God has used (and is still using) Speech and Debate in your life.

We need to choose to trust God.

In September of 2014, God moved my family from Houston, Texas, to Kansas City, Missouri. The move completely changed my life as I knew it, and for a long time afterwards, I struggled with bitterness. But even though my life wasn’t easy, especially in the first few years after the move, God’s plan was still better than anything I might’ve had in mind. Had I not moved to Kansas City, I probably would’ve never had a reason to use my online school’s forum, therefore never meeting the friend from Georgia who later introduced me to the NCFCA.

God’s plans frequently take us through the unexpected (after all, how many of you planned to be in quarantine this spring?) and often leads us to outcomes we didn’t even know we wanted. He delights in surprising us and working all things out for His glory. His guidance is constant; while He never promised us life would be easy, He did promise never to leave us nor forsake us. Scripture is full of the stories of how God extended grace toward mankind when mankind didn’t deserve it, of how He planned better for us than we could’ve ever planned for ourselves. So how should we respond in a manner that demonstrates trust towards God?

First, we need to surrender our futures to God. In this life, we are constantly presented with two options: either we can worry about what we want the future to be, or we can trust that God does all things well and has a perfect plan for our lives. It’s easier to choose the first option because we like being in control; however, this option only results in unnecessary stress and anxiety. Therefore, our choice must be to surrender our futures to God. How do we do this? First, we choose to trust God, and secondly, we daily prioritize our relationship with Him through prayer and the study of His Word.

Secondly, we need to focus on what we know. When life doesn’t go the way we want it to, we often become overwhelmed and lose sight of what God has done and who we are through Him. During those difficult and uncertain situations, we have to choose to place our focus on what we know to be true regardless of where we’re at in life: what God has promised us in His Word, who we are in Christ, and what God’s done for us in times past. This sets our perspective in the right direction and helps to keep our focus on God, rather than allowing the severity of our problems to overwhelm us.

Finally, we need to commit to following God wherever He takes us. When God’s plans are also our plans, it’s easy to commit to following what He wants us to do. However, following God becomes much more difficult when He directs you through circumstances that were not in your plans. It requires more dedication to trust that God’s providence isn’t limited by our short-sighted perspective, and more determination to believe that God, in His omnipotence, will work all things out for good. But the results of following God are well worth whatever struggles we encounter along the way. He truly knows best; His plan for our lives is infinitely better than anything we could come up with on our own. Therefore, if we truly believe this, we have to commit to following God’s plan for our lives.

Your accomplishments don’t define your Speech and Debate experience.

The truth is, Speech and Debate prepares you to face life, not just to do well at tournaments. In competition, you’ve had to choose whether to remain bitter over or accept an unfair ballot that you couldn’t change. You’ve had to choose whether to believe rumors about people or to believe the best of them, as we are called to biblically, until there is solid proof otherwise. You’ve had to choose whether to despise others or whether to love them in mercy and forgiveness. You’ve had to choose whether to stress about the outcome of a tournament or to commit your future to God. Yes, the circumstances change once you leave the Speech and Debate, but the basic struggles remain the same. You’re still going to face unfair situations. You’re still going to hear rumors about people, you’re still going to have to forgive people, and you’re still going to have to choose to trust God. Even if you never advance to Regionals, the life experience that you’ve gained, is far from wasted.

Your message isn’t lost. Sure, maybe only one or two people (maybe even just you) might remember your speeches, and sure, you might never deliver it again – but that doesn’t mean you have to stop sharing your message with the world. And yes, your message isn’t lost even if your topic isn’t something you’re ever liable to talk about again. In 2019, I did an Illustrated Oratory on Bayes’ Theorem, which is a mathematical formula for determining conditional probability. While I haven’t discussed the ins and outs of the formula since the speech failed to advance to Nats, I’ve absolutely continued to talk about how we need to strive to maintain a positive mindset in the face of adverse circumstances.

Your worth isn’t determined by how you did. Guys, you are so much more than the medals, certificates, or lack thereof that you received while competing this season. You are so much more than your favorite moments and the moments you wished had never happened. You are a person, created in the image of God, endowed with a unique perspective, a unique audience, and a unique purpose. You are a light for Christ, piercing through the black darkness and utter brokenness of this world. You are a child of the Almighty God, Who loves you, and cares for you, and promises you that all things work together for His glory.

You are not insignificant, nor will you ever be, whether you never break to Regionals or whether you speak in the Showcase of Excellence at Nationals. Yes, sometimes it’s very tempting to feel like you make no difference in the world around you – but that’s not true in the slightest. As one of my friends who is a former Showcase of Excellence speaker taught me last year, your day to day actions have the ability to make a far greater impact in people’s lives than the speeches presented in the Showcase of Excellence. You don’t have to be the best speaker or debater in the world to change the world – because it isn’t you who changes the world, but rather the power of God working through you. And if you are willing to follow Him, He will not hesitate to use you greatly, as God is no stranger to using imperfect, and from a human perspective, unqualified, people to accomplish His perfect plan.

Finally, you are not forgotten about, even if you feel that way. You are loved, and missed, and cared for, whether you’re a novice, or whether you’re a senior whose season was cut short. If you doubt me, reach out to some of your friends, message them, or if you can – videocall them. You are important to people, even if you cannot see it.

Guys, it’s okay to miss Regionals. It’s okay to be a little frustrated and a little upset, and it’s okay to struggle to see God working through all of this. But please don’t allow yourself to fall into the traps of thinking that God doesn’t know best and that your time spent in Speech and Debate was wasted and unfruitful. To the NCFCAer missing Regionals – trust God, and don’t forget how He has used NCFCA in your life. May God bless you, and Solo Deo Gloria.

A note from Heather -Many Regions or Clubs are still celebrating. Many groups have had online events to celebrate their accomplishments. It just looks differently. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebX are just a few of the platforms which allow us to stay connected! I know virtual send offs, graduations, or end of the year gatherings are not what we expected. But I encourage you to stay connected, try new things, and most of all remember the scriptures didn’t say how two or more had to be gathered to know – He is there!!