I’ve often been told I am an encouraging person. I am always so happy to hear it. I love to think that something—anything that I have said or done could have helped someone I love to feel better about themselves, feel stronger, feel more loved, or even just ease their days a bit—help them get through whatever they are going through at the moment. In fact, I have always felt that the role of encourager is one of (if not the) highest callings in this life.
I have changed my mind.
This past week I was on the phone with a very good friend, a friend who has become almost a mentor of sorts, a big brother who I thank God for daily. This friend was asking me about my life, and I was sharing with him about what had been going on—my hopes—my dreams—my goals—my prayer requests. He wasted not one breath before affirming to me verbally that “You can do it, AB!” and “All of these goals are realistic” and “You have a gift, and I know God has an amazing purpose for your life!”
I felt immediately encouraged. And I thought, “I can get through this day, because God has sent my friend with words to sustain me and keep me going one more day.” Just as I was thanking God for this encouragement and sustenance, I noticed that my friend was not finished. He went on to actually sit down with me and talk through exactly how I was going to take the first step(s) to actively move towards accomplishing all of my heart’s dreams and hopes and goals.
He prayed with me right there, on the phone…yes, actually prayed—not just let me know he was going to pray for me—he prayed with me right then and there. We made a list—we walked through how to make a website (step by maddening step). We worked out my budget. We made phonecalls. We signed me up for a yoga class and healing workshop to quiet my heart and mind. We made small changes in my diet (I feel better already). We made progress.
As I think of this friend, every time I remember him in thanks and praise to God—I try to pinpoint what it is about him that is such a gift. Why I always cannot wait to talk to him. Why I value him as I do. Why I long to seek time with him, and feel such a lightening and hopefulness when I leave him. Today, I figured it out.
He does not encourage me in my life. He empowers me.
He does not tell me nice things, to help me feel better so I can make it through the day. He physically takes my hand, pulls me up on my feet and walks with me.
This new way of seeing my friend challenges me in my friendships. I wonder back now, when a friend has shared with me their biggest fears, or discouragements, or even prayer requests—have I offered them some flowery sounding platitude or scripture verse? (To be sure, scripture is powerful and a gift to us all)…but next time, and from now on….I want to not worry as much about making them feel so good about themselves by what I say, so that they can survive that day—but rather take their hand, walk with them (make a darn list), and have them feel good about themselves because they had the tools and power to create their day.