Tuesday, November 04, 2014

We are called to encourage one another

My latest column for Godly Daddy ...

Do you know someone who needs to be encouraged?

As Junior Asparagus said on “VeggieTales,” their life should be a party but the hot dog fell out of their bun?

There is a Peanuts cartoon that showed Lucy in her psychiatrist booth, giving advice to a bummed out Charlie Brown as usual for five cents. She tells him, “Life, Charlie Brown, is like a deck chair on a cruise ship. Passengers open up these canvas deck chairs so they can sit in the sun. Some people place their chairs facing the rear of the ship so they can see where they’ve been. Other people face their chairs forward. They want to see where they’re going. On the cruise ship of life, Charlie Brown, which way is your deck chair facing?”

Charlie Brown, instead of thinking about how things used to be or will be, sighs, “I’ve never been able to get one unfolded.”

Earlier this year I took over as the teacher of my Sunday School Life Group class.

It is a humbling experience, especially when you make what you think is an amazing Biblical point, only to be met with silence and stares.

I would put in an “applause” sign, but then that would mean that I’ve forgotten that it’s not about me.

At least three times a week I wonder how I can keep the privilege without being seen as a raging hypocrite or at least a terrible example, whether it is:

A. When I am making Cooper cry after sending him to his room for copping an attitude with Darling Valerie, or

B. When I just want to lay my weary head on the floor and go to sleep, right after I scrub the poop off the floor that Penny wiped on it (“because I wanted to”), or

C. When Darling Valerie has to get onto me because I am stuck on No. 1 of my six-page Honey Do List, currently renamed the Honey Doesn’t Have The Energy To Do Jack Squat List.

In many Bible stories we relate a lot to David, his triumphs and his failures. But when it comes down to it, the reality is that we are more likely to be Uriah. We serve someone in a higher authority, we try to stay true to our values, and sometimes we end up with the short end of the stick.

If not for the encouragement of my church’s education minister, Brother Joseph, I would never have even imagined I could teach a class of full-fledged adult Christians who have probably been going to church far longer than I have, won trophies for Bible Drill as kids and are active in missions and discipling. But Bro. Joseph knew that I needed to, and could, take that step of faith.

It’s that kind of encouragement that we all need. It’s when we are doing this that we show what Jesus called the new commandment in John 13:34-35: “A new command I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

That can be tough when you’re dealing with adults who should generally know better and take responsibility for their actions. When it comes to our kids, encouragement comes naturally. It’s hard to fault a three-year-old for throwing a tantrum, so you forgive quickly and love unconditionally or you will never be able to take enough Calgon baths to sing of the mercies of the Lord.

But if you’re looking for that kind of love for everyone then the Bible makes it clear that if we abide in Christ then you will naturally bear the fruits of the spirit, love will flow and you’ll be the light on the hill.

As believers were are to encourage one another. To do so glorifies Jesus. Peter tells us that “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:8-19)

Key word there: Grumbling. How easy is it to be as stiff-necked as the Israelites, murmuring under our breaths as if God doesn’t know what’s in our hearts?!

I made it a point recently to be better at encouraging after a co-worker made an offhand remark who accidentally made it clear that I was not following Hebrews 3:13 to “encourage each other daily.”

In a joking Facebook post my co-worker said something about me being bitter while working and I thought, “Wait, I come across as bitter?” I mean, sure, there was that time recently when I was literally banging my head on the desk, and the time I slightly exaggerated that things were going so bad that I was going to stab myself in the knee just to feel something real, and OK that all happened within 15 minutes, so yeah, I could work on my attitude.

Even when everything is a little crazy I don’t want to be seen as angry or unhappy, so I decided to take the initiative to be more positive and encouraging. It’s a work in progress, of course, and even more difficult at home.

What I realized that first week at work is that the more encouraging I was, the more positive my job became. It was easier to deal with setbacks, and if I was treating people in an upbeat manner they reacted to that.

Now, the next challenge is to transfer that to my home life, and to be able to generate a joyful attitude even when Penny has thrown Cooper’s shoes into the toilet, or Cooper throws a tantrum because I told him we wouldn’t get ice cream at Chick-fil-A later after he threw a tantrum for not getting it last time for throwing a tantrum.

If you have felt lately like you are crashing and burning, I implore you to watch this interview with Texas high school running back Apollos Hester, who seems to have a clear grasp of what it means to have an inspirational attitude. Here’s what he tells the reporter at the end:

“It’s a mindset, yes ma’am, Hey, you can do anything you put your mind to. Never give up on your dreams. Keep smiling. No matter what you’re going through, you fall down, just get up. If you can’t get up, your friends are there to help you up, your mama’s there, your daddy’s there, God’s there, hey I’m there to help you up, you’re there!”

You know that poem “Footprints in the Sand,” hanging in every grandmother’s bathroom? It says, in part, “During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

There’s a cartoon playing off of “Footprints” that shows a set of footprints next to two lines in the sand and Jesus saying, “Over there is when I dragged you for a while.”

Can you think of at least one way you can be used by God to carry (or drag) someone through difficult times by encouraging them in the faith this week? Whom do you know who needs a call, a visit, an email, and your prayers? Make it so!

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