Our eldest children Marie and Noah were blessed to attend an elementary school where Mr. Terry Knight served as principal. To this day, Mr. Knight remains one of our family's most admired figures, as he always will. He was an educator beyond compare, and I thank the Lord that two of our offspring had the opportunity to experience this very special Christian gentleman's marvelous gift of leadership.
I share this to illustrate a Biblical truth exemplified by a particular practice of Mr. Knight. Before addressing this, however, I must take the opportunity to share a few things about Mr. Knight both in principle and in anecdote. First, he was the quintessential example of the old adage of possessing "an iron fist in a velvet glove." When you meet Mr. Knight, you're struck by the gentleness of his demeanor and voice. He is warm, gracious, friendly as a person, and he exhibited the same as a school principal. However, there was never any doubt as to who was in charge of Leinkauf Elementary. The children knew, the teachers knew, and as a parent, I can assure you that those of us with children at Leinkauf knew that the buck not only stopped at Mr. Knight's desk. It began and continued there also. He possesses that rare quality of leadership whereby both gentleness and firmness unite to foster affection and respect in those who know him, and serve under his guidance.
A wonderful example of this occurred when our daughter Marie graduated from Leinkauf at the completion of the fifth grade. As we left the ceremony, Mr. Knight took us aside to share a word of advice with us.
"Mr. and Mrs. Davis," he said with that gentleness and firmness that gets your attention, "Marie is wonderful girl, and an incredible student. However, you're going to have to be careful with her. She drives herself so hard that it will be important that you handle her with a lot of caution and latitude. She'll need your guidance, but if you push her, you'll create some unnecessary problems." To this day, this remains some of the greatest counsel we've ever received, and it proved to be true. Marie is one of the most self-motivated people you'll ever meet, and didn't need us to remind, encourage, or challenge her to do her schoolwork and fulfill her other responsibilities. Moreover, I suspect that Mr. Knight saw in myself and Frances those tendencies that might lead us to be somewhat overbearing (yes, I admit it!). What insight, and what a wonderful bit of advice from a noble heart and mind.
Now to my primary point, and the thought that originally motivated me to write this. Frances and I often remind each other of something Mr. Knight always said to the children at the beginning of school assemblies.
"Now children, I will expect you to be on your best behavior during this time. Be quiet and listen to the speakers, applaud those who give it their best as they perform. And remember, if someone stumbles and falls as they come up to the stage, don't laugh at them. Instead, encourage them in your heart."
It's been more than 25 years now since I last heard Mr. Knight utter those words, but I still hear them echoing in my heart and mind. What an amazing thing to suggest to young children at a formative time in their lives! (and to their parents!). "Encourage them in your heart." Is there any better practical expression of the attitude toward others that Christians should maintain in our hearts and minds? Indeed, we live in a world wherein all of us sometimes stumble as we come up to the stage, as it were. How wonderful it is when we encounter people who, rather than laugh at our misstep, instead express a supportive and gracious heart of encouragement. We all know such ones whose disposition of sympathy and empathy helps us to get up and walk again. When I think of this blessed truth that begins in God Himself, it is never long before I think also of Mr. Knight and his wonderful challenge from so long ago.
I could have written this before now, and would have found much joy in doing so. However, it means all the more now because several months ago, we ran into Mr. Knight and his wife in a local grocery store. We exchanged email addresses, and he kindly allows us to send the Orange Moon devotionals to him. I'm glad he'll read this, and I know that he will humbly suggest I am overstating his virtues. I assure you that I am not, although it is true that the Lord Jesus Christ is the source of those good things that came to us through this godly and gracious man.
So, thank You, Lord for the wonderful truth that You forevermore encourage Your trusting children in Your heart when we stumble. And thank you, Mr. Knight, for being such a blessed expression of this loving attitude that points us to the Lord Jesus.
"Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another."(I Thessalonians 5:11)