I’m sitting in Starbucks, doing some work and planning and stuph, and have the privilege of having a father and his two sons sitting next to me. The boys are around 5 and 7, and are completely full of life – partially cuz they are hanging with their dad, but partially cuz of what he bought them.
As he sat them down, he placed the Starbucks bag on the table between them, and they were so amusing, keying off of each other.
“Is that a cookie?”
“That’s a cookie!”
Over and over, looking at each other, then to the dad, questioning and confirming and getting more and more excited. When the dad said “yes, it is a cookie”, the younger one let out a “Yes!!!!”, smiled and bounced in his seat, prompting the other to do the same. Now, I am not naive enough to question the power of a cookie in the life of a child (or adult… or, me 🙂 ). What made me smile though was how the excitement of one encouraged excitement in the other.
Encouragement is a powerful thing, and rightly so. I am reading a book on workplace dynamics and one of the tenets of the book is how misplaced inspiration is when it comes to affecting change in the workplace. While I get what the author (and the research) is saying, I don’t think it is entirely true. Inspiration and encouragement, while not the actual change agents, do so much to unlock our motivation, emotion and drive that help facilitate change.
Over the past week or so, my best friend has had me focusing on the story of Gideon. Gideon was in quite the situation… All of Israel was living in fear, and Gideon comes on the scene when he is trying to harvest out some food, all while hiding from the enemy. The angel of God shows up and begins the process of encouraging Gideon. Gideon’s response, however shows that he is anything but encouraged:
…if God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us, “Didn’t God deliver us from Egypt?” The fact is, God has nothing to do with us – he has turned us over to Midian. – Judges 6:13
Wow… not too easy to encourage Gideon… he wasn’t having it. But it was necessary for him to get it, cuz the change needed in Israel had to start somewhere, and for God, it was gonna start with Gideon. Something, or someone had to be the catalyst to prompt encouragement and change in Israel.
Thinking back to the boys… I’m sure the cookie would have been enough to make them happy, but watching them, there was a level of excitement that didn’t come from the cookie itself. It came from each other. Something happens when we “allow people in”- we receive something of them that releases the things in us that may be bound up by anger, fear, hatred or whatever. Need proof? Take a look at this video, and dare yourself to not smile or laugh 🙂
Fun to watch, wasn’t it? 😉
Wasn’t it interesting watching people trying to maintain their composure? It was as if they were working hard to not laugh, but in the end they couldn’t. Whether a little or a lot, they gave in to the laughter. This is what happened with the boys… One started with a little bit of excitement, and in his exuberance encouraged the other to express his own… soon they were both jumping, bouncing and smiling at the prospect of a single cookie…
Inspiration and encouragement, as seen by the boys, are not single events. Had God shown up for Gideon and said, “get it together, I need to you take care of this”, but that was it, I’m pretty sure the story would have had a different ending. But after Gideon gave his stinging analysis of his situation, God kept engaging him. “It’s ok, Gideon, I have chosen you… I’ll be with you… trust me, you will do it… if you need a sign, I’ll give it to you… 2 signs? Sure, no problem. 3? Got you covered.”
See, sometimes all we need is a good timely word or sign… other times it takes a little more to dig us out of our bondage to fear or fatalism. Especially when the voices around us continually confirm our situation, whether the voices come from actual people, or from the situation never changing: healing doesn’t come… money runs out… phone calls don’t get returned…
but encourage one another daily, while it is called “today”… – Hebrews 3:13
Encouragement is key to our lives, and so very timely for us. Sometimes we don’t even realize how important that encouragement is… whether we are on the giving end or the receiving. I think this is why God says to do it every day.
Ok, so if I start out talking about cookies, what’s up with the dead looking plant in the picture? Well, if you look close, you will see, attached to some of the branches, tendrils… little twirly things from other branches. They are used to support each other to help them grow and climb. 🙂 This is like encouragement in our lives… At the time that we need it, when we think we cannot get to that next point, encouragement wraps itself around us and says, “you can do it… I’m with you and I believe in you.”
So take the time to encourage someone today. If you are needing some encouragement, my prayer is that you receive the right word or action that will wrap itself around you, and help you climb to new heights.
Every time I hear Hannah Brencher, I am transported back to the time that I participated with her organization in writing encouraging letters to people I have yet to meet (you can read about my experience here). I did it at a time when I thought I had nothing to give, yet when I began to focus on the recipient, I felt the tendrils of love and encouragement reach out to wrap around the person (well, people, as I wrote more than one). One thing that is clear from hearing her – people are dying (some literally) for want of encouragement. Proverbs 16:24 says “Kind words are like honey: sweet to the taste and good for your health.”