In the quiet of the morning today, I was thinking back on the many times someone gave me words of encouragement. Those memories still bring a smile to my lips.
Like when I was 25 & trying to teach myself to play guitar so that I could play for worship. I was in the early stages of thrashing about with my strumming & painstakingly forcing my fingers into some semblance of a correct position for chords, & even to my untrained ear, I could tell it was NOT going well. I was down in a hole. Frustrated. Defeated. Discouraged. That day had been particularly bad because I had risked… by dragging out my beater, an acoustic Aspen guitar (which I’d purchased for the sum of $100) & attempting to play along with a couple of much further along in the guitar-playing process friends, only to find that not only was I at least as bad as I’d thought, I melted under the pressure & forgot how to form the chords I DID know. I took my guitar & put in away in its beaten-up, chip-board case, thinking, “I won’t do THAT again.”
And then one of the guys pulled me aside later & said, “You’re doing really well. Don’t quit. You are on the verge of getting it, when the strum & the chords & the timing & everything all comes together. I remember when I was learning, & the spot you’re in right now in the learning process is a HARD one… but it is SO CLOSE to coming together for you. Keep going.”
His words were sincere… acknowledging the reality of my “playing” but also offering the perspective of someone who had been down the road before & survived. And he shared what HE saw from his spot something in me that I was about to give up on, & because he did, I stuck with guitar. I kept playing. And sure enough, it wasn’t more than a month or so later that I had turned a “learning corner” to the point where I could play a (simple) worship song without being too distracting with my mistakes, mis-strums, & mis-chords. I had been DIS-couraged. He spoke words of life to me & I was EN-couraged.
I could relay 10 stories about different people who gave me words of encouragement related to playing the guitar… Kelly the small group leader; Rocker dude in Winters who showed me ‘cheater-power chords;” Ron the boss; Chum who kept sending me chord sheets; the list goes on.
And that’s just one area of my life.
So it’s because of that story (& 100’s of others like it) that I purpose to be diligently looking speak life, hope, & encouragement to others when I see them making an effort, no matter how “on-point” or excellent their efforts appears to be. Because I know what it did to me when those people shared with me their perspective, from their own experiences, & looked for (& somehow found) in me a sign of hope. Progress. Life. Change.
I think my favorite area to encourage people is in their steps of faith in Christ… esp. because I know the internal battle each person faces as they attempt to live life differently, no longer according to the pattern of this world, but according to the pattern of Christ. And I know intimately the belittling words of criticism our enemy the devil throws at us, mocking our every effort as insincere, inadequate, inauthentic. Where he reminds us of all our past (failed) efforts, & attempts to bully & intimidate us into putting the guitar back into its case, never to take it out again.
And its the exact opposite of how Christ Jesus looks at us & our (feeble, struggling, inadequate) efforts. He looks at the steps we’re taking, at the simple, crayon-scribbled, monochromatic picture we’re creating with with our life & pursuit of Him, & He calls it beautiful. And He puts it on His proverbial fridge, like He’s actually proud of us.
Because He is. And He speaks to us about things in & around us that ARE NOT YET, as though they ARE. And because He believes in us, we can start believing in us as well as we continue in Him.
So I will speak truth, life, & encouragement with everything I’ve got. Knowing that when I do, my perspective & my words are reflecting those of Christ.
And that’s the goal… to be a little piece of Jesus, every day.