Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Even Grown Ups Need Encouragement

We are all pretty good at putting on our game faces, at wearing masks that conceal what we don't wish to share.  The moment our pressed clothes and polished shoes cross the threshold, we muster up a day full of smiles and friendliness meant to erase any hint of the turmoil going on inside our souls.

But behind that smile that we wear for our friends, our families, our church families, and even strangers, sometimes it's difficult to just breathe.  The emotional burden inexplicably becomes a physical weight that can almost be felt pressing down, in, around, compressing the heart, head, lungs...suffocating.

I've heard pastors tell congregations to just give the burden to God, and they'll instantly feel the weight lifted.  Many times, that works.  Yet, then there are those instances when God, Himself, burdens our hearts for an individual.  He intentionally places the burden on us.

This past weekend was one of those times for me.

I tried my best to give three individuals' different situations completely back to Him because honestly?  Even though it doesn't sound very Christian-like, I didn't want to be burdened for them.  I'm in the midst of grading final projects and final exams.  The last thing I wanted was so much drama during my busiest time of the school year.  What's more, I didn't want to feel this much for someone who wasn't my own blood. It hurts to feel another's pain.

But God didn't lift the weight.  Instead, He made my heart literally ache for what several of my sisters in Christ are going through at this season of their lives.  For days, he made that burden all consuming, filling my thoughts throughout the day with prayers heavenward for that person to find His peace, comfort, confidence, strength, or discernment.

I have learned from past experience that this is how His Spirit works in me, reminding me to pray for others when my daily schedule might keep me from remembering.  In time, He eases the weight, but until He does, He is calling me to pray and sometimes, to encourage those persons through my words and deeds.

Scripture says, "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb. 10:24-25).

Encouragement is something we all want but don't always give.

Perhaps we don't want to pry or get up in someone else's business.  Maybe we're even a little afraid of what other burden we'll be laden with if we do express our concern or seek to encourage another.

But think of how good it feels when someone stops you just to say they are praying for you.  Think of that phone call or short note you received, out of the blue, just to encourage you.

I have one of those cards tacked on my office bulletin board.  Every time it catches my eye and I reread its words, my heart swells warm again and again.

Those words of encouragement, though?  They're few and far between.  It's too easy to tear down.  It comes too naturally.  Think about it.  Do you call a company when they have a great product? Or only when you have a complaint?

It's discouraging when all you ever hear are negatives.  My days are filled with college students and very young children, both of whom drag me down daily with a litany of complaints concerning what they think I'm not doing right.  In this click and send generation, too many of my students are quite adept at vocalizing every grievance before walking away to take a breath and think about their words or tone.  It's extremely rare to get a 'thank you.'

Perhaps it sounds whiny, but I have those days when I long for someone to step up and say something nice to me, to speak a word of encouragement over me during a trial, to tell me YES, I am doing something right, that I am doing a good job with whatever, or that they're praying for me.

Because I understand this need in myself, I try to meet it for my children by constantly speaking words of encouragement over them.  Each night, I write my oldest son Wyatt a letter to read at morning breakfast, just something simple to brighten his day, to encourage him.  Each morning after daddy takes him to school, I awaken to the phonetically-spelled reply of my kindergartner. This morning's missive was a list of what I could do to "exercise" my body and mind.  Then, at the bottom were the simple words, "thank you encourage me."

Those simple words of thanks for me as a mother brightened my entire morning and stayed with me throughout the chaos of a too-full day.

This is who we all need to strive to be--a people who encourage, who build up. Because, truly, how much does it really cost us to open our mouths to encourage another or to take five minutes and write a short note?

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