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If you don’t believe in yourself

By Charles Qualls

You may not have noticed, but the year 2019 passed without me using this column a single time to write a rah-rah piece about the city of Franklin. This year will not pass similarly. My first guest column to this newspaper in 2017 was viewed by some as just that, a cheerleading effort. Actually, that was not my purpose at all. I followed up a year later in 2018 with another positive column about our area. I skipped a year on purpose, being a Franklin come-here, because I didn’t want folks to think I was blind to some of our city’s challenges.

Hopefully, we all have that influential person who can speak truth to us at all times. A presence who can speak encouragement when we need it, and can also speak challenge to our blind-spots. A few years ago, I was beginning to talk with churches. I was looking for the right fit after more than 15 years where I was. This would be my first senior pastorate. I was wondering if I was up to the challenge.

My mentor in life and ministry is a friend named Bo Prosser. We have journeyed together since the mid-1980s. He was a young minister then, and I was an even younger college student. I would wind up doing three internships with him before I went off to seminary, including a solid year in adult education work. Since then, he has continued as a mentor figure. But years ago we began to collaborate, including co-authoring four books together.

I confided to him back in 2016 my ponderings and misgivings about being anything other than a career associate pastor. Bo gave me a familiar, honest look which always clued me that something challenging was about to come my way. I’ll never forget what he said. “Hey baby, if YOU don’t believe in you — then you’re gonna have a hard time getting anyone else to.”

Franklin reminds me of the city in which I served my first church nearly 30 years ago. A hundred years before, that small middle-Georgia town had actually been the antebellum state capital. It had known an era of affluence and prestige at one time. Obviously, Franklin also enjoyed a prolonged era of affluence and prestige. Folks here have had just long enough since the flood and the mill closure to notice some obvious shifts. Now, I sense Franklin feels a little sorry for itself.

Before the pandemic, optimism had ticked up a bit here. I hope we can resume that feeling as the quarantine restrictions gradually lift. New leadership was interspersing among the old. Main Street was on a roll, with new stores and a developing restaurant scene. In my time here, some native sons and daughters have chosen to return to Franklin. They have taken jobs and bought homes because they want to be here. We are navigating our way through the recent peaceful protests of late with open arms and listening ears.

Still, a prevailing undertone lingers. A quiet crisis of confidence among some. The unwillingness to set aside memories of the old Franklin long enough to assess what still exists. There is also a tacit pulse of feeling a little sorry for ourselves. While we face some very real head-winds, and are a bit fragile by some important socio-economic metrics, we do have a lot to offer. The underlying question coming out of a global pandemic now is whether we believe in ourselves enough to do our best in the days to come. Courageous citizens have newly run for public service. Brave business owners have invested significant dollars in our city these last years.

Our local government, business and economic development leaders can do a lot for us. Entrepreneurial citizens can do their creative best. One quantity they cannot control is our attitudes. I can hear my friend’s voice right now. I would echo his message, except this time to my fellow residents. “If you don’t believe in yourself, it’s gonna be awfully hard to get anyone else to.”

THE REV. DR. CHARLES QUALLS is pastor of Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 562-5135.