“Evidence?”

When I was an undergraduate student up at Houghton College, I had a certain English professor who was relatively well known for writing “Evidence?” on students’ papers.

Over and over.

And over.

It was shorthand for “You’re making some claims here that you aren’t supporting–what’s your evidence for saying this?”

His insistence on evidence was just one of the quirks that made him quite scary to most students, but I always liked him for his honesty and his unwillingness to let students be mediocre.

In fact, his writing on one of my freshman papers that my thesis was (I kid you not) “ludicrous crap” ended up becoming somewhat legendary. Years later, his daughter exclaimed, “That was you?!?”

Now, more than ten years after that paper–and perhaps for the rest of my life–whenever I hear the word “evidence,” I think of you, Dr. Wardwell, and your high standards.

***

As we know from Scriptural exhortations to judge a tree by its fruit, evidence is as important in life as in writing.

Okay, okay, probably even more so.

That said, this really challenges me:

Though we may do many things to increase our self-control (like fast, keep a schedule of daily prayer, tithe, and sacrifice time and money), one of the main things God uses for our spiritual growth is other people. As they interact with us, frustrate and annoy us, we are over and over given opportunities to act in love. The main evidence that we are growing in Christ is not exhilarating prayer experiences, but steadily increasing humble love for other people.

–Frederica Mathewes-Green, First Fruits of Prayer: A Forty-Day Journey through the Canon of St. Andrew, p. xv.

When I look back over the last few days, weeks, months, heck, years, I wonder how many times “Evidence?” could be written next to my claims to live as Christ lived in this world.

More times than I’d like to admit, I’m sure, because I’m not very good at that humble love for other people thing. At least, not for some particular people.

And I’m pretty sure they’re included, too.

The main evidence that we are growing in Christ is not exhilarating prayer experiences, but steadily increasing humble love for other people.

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4 comments on ““Evidence?”

  1. Darla Botkin says:

    I totally agree that the opportunity for spiritual growth lies in our interactions with other people. But sometimes I want to say to God, “Are you kidding me?” Meaning sometimes it is very hard to respond with humble love; as I am sure it is with others trying to respond similarly to me. I guess that is why spiritual growth comes from being able to do so, rather than just saying lots of prayers in isolation. Thanks. lots of food-for-thought.
    Darla

    • elizabeth says:

      Oh my goodness, do I ever know what you mean. Sometimes I think God is playing a practical joke on me, especially since I started blogging about community. God’s like, “oh yeah? You want to write about community? Watch this.” And then here come some folks I’d be otherwise unlikely to include in my community, let alone love!

      Thanks for your thoughts, Darla.

  2. stephenii says:

    Reblogged this on wherever you go and commented:
    I so love my sister. She is a brilliant writer, an amazing thinker, and a wonderful mother and wife. I remember hearing about her “ludicrous crap” and have actually retold that story to lots of people.

    So, what evidence do you have of God in your life?

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