regrets and rewards

I'm home from Boston. The 2011 NCFCA Speech and Debate National Championship is officially over. And with it, my speech and debate career has come to a close. This has caused me to do a lot of thinking about endings, closure, good-byes, and what I have left behind.

As we drove home from the tournament after the awards ceremony, I thought about the past three years. From my first year with one speech event to this year iron-manning at Nationals. God has done big things, as He usually does. But what I mostly thought about was the impact I had made over the years.

You see, I knew I was done. There would be no more breaks, no more medals, no more trophies, no more winning or losing. As soon as I realized that, the awards of the past years became shockingly insignificant. I've always known that it's not about the trophies, but something hit me even more that night. Because now that it's all over and done, none of the placings really matter anymore. As I pondered the years, I wasn't thinking about the times I succeeded by placing well. I was thinking about the messages I shared, the impact I made, and the lives I knew I'd been able to change.

And that's when the spiritual parallel hit me, once again.

My three years in speech and debate can represent a life. We spend life doing many things, striving to reach certain goals. But when life is over, we're only going to care about certain things. It's not going to be about the positions we held, the recognition we received, the jobs we earned, the scholarships we were given, the homes we bought, or anything else. All we will remember, all we will care about, will be the messages we shared, the impact we made, and the lives we were able to change.

Now, let me take the parallel a little further, on to the topic of regrets. Looking back over my years of NCFCA, I have quite a few regrets. I regret having procrastinated and not delivering my message effectively. I regret the tournament I spent leaning on my own strength (I failed). I regret those impromptu speeches in which I avoided the gospel in order to hopefully improve my ballot ranking. I regret these things because now I can see clearly that the purpose of speech and debate was not to have fun and just learn to communicate well, but to shine truth and light in a dark world.

Just like this life, there are things we will regret. We will regret wasting our time to the point that we miss out on chances to effectively serve Jesus. We will regret trying to succeed on our own strength, because we are not strong. We will regret those conversations and relationships where we avoided speaking the truth so as not to "hurt anyone's feelings." We'll regret these things because when we stand before God, we'll see clearly that the purpose of life was not have fun and to learn how to serve Him, but to actually go, make disciples, be the change, shine your light.

Think about my observations. Think about your life. And think about what needs to change. What needs to happen in your life so that from this day forward, you can live in a way without regrets?

Speech and Debate is not about trophies. Life is not about temporary success. God wants us to strive for something so much better, so much deeper. Let us not regret the effort wasted on perishable treasures, but instead live for Jesus, the one reward that will never perish, spoil, or fade.


  1. Amen, Shelby!! It was great just meeting you in passing at Nats--you're one of those people who really do shine. Not because of the awards, but because you see the big picture. :) Thanks for the fabulous post! :)


  2. You have learned something that takes many people a whole lifetime to figure out. Thanks for sharing it. I am always inspired reading your blog. :)

    -Em (the neighbor one)

  3. Great post, Shelby. I've asked myself the same question many times: What do I really gain if I "get it all"? If my goal is to achieve momentary success, it will not satisfy. Only Jesus can satisfy the deepest needs of my heart, not trophies or awards or peoples' praise. When my life here on earth has come to a close, what will matter to me then? What I'll care about in the end is what I accomplished for the Lord, who I imparted the gospel to, those I showed His love to, and the things I did to glorify God and be salt and light in this dark world. Thanks for the great reminder!


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