“Encourage one another day after day! ~ Hebrews 3:13
We all have bucket lists, a record of things we would like to experience or accomplish in the days before we die. My friend, Tom, who had spent much of his life doing research and living behind a desk, decided he wanted to become a competitive runner and so, well into his 50’s, began training for a marathon. He spent evenings and weekends running along the country roads near his home and began entering 5-K running events as often as he could. He added bicycling to his exercise regime and joined friends on weekend trips across the state.
Finally, the day came for his first real marathon and Tom was ready. On that glorious October morning, he joined 44,999 other runners in downtown Chicago, slowly and meticulously making their way across the 26.2 miles of pavement, past parks and office buildings, through cool lake front breezes, up and down the slow rise of the concrete before him. He had never felt so invigorated or so exhausted all at once, he told us, and he was so attentive to his own pace that he didn’t pay much attention as other runners passed him by. He knew he could not place in the top 6000 of those whose times were recorded for posterity but on he ran, determined to enjoy his own personal victory.
Up until this point, it had not occurred to Tom to quit. Instead, he kept his eyes fixed on the back of another man about his age who ran 20 or so paces in front of him. And then he reached the wall he had been warned of, the psychological hurdle he would need to scale around about the 22-mile marker. Thoughts of just stopping began to fill his mind. “Why not?” he asked himself. “I am not a failure, look at all I have been able to accomplish!” he rationalized. He was good at debate and it seemed as though both sides of his mind were arguing their case pretty convincingly when Tom heard someone calling out his number. “3622, you can do it! You are almost there.” Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of someone, a stranger waving a small flag and speaking just to him. “Every step is one closer to your goal. You are an amazing runner; your pace is perfect. You are doing everything just right! Now just keep on going! The finish line is just ahead!” Handing him a cup of cold water, the man ran alongside Tom for another half mile or so, cheering him with his words, inspiring him with his encouragement, building his resolve to finish the race!
What Tom experienced as he neared the end of his first marathon was what we would commonly call encouragement. When we encourage someone, we seek to further their faith in seeing their goals met, offering them hope for what lies ahead. All the while we are coming alongside them, caring for their various needs. Since we know that nurture, for parents, includes being involved in the whole training and education of children, including the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, we also know that our encouragement in each of these areas of their lives is crucial.
Did you ever know someone who had been raised in a home where encouragement was not a part of the life of the family? Where hope was replaced by despair and faith was squelched at every turn? When our sons were on a little league team, one of the coaches was also the father of one of the players. Week after week this man belittled his son and dressed him down in front of all his teammates and their parents. The poor kid didn’t improve much during the season, frequently striking out when at bat or watching as the ball rolled out of his glove, and he always had the demeanor of a defeated little soul, sitting on the bench, shoulders stooped and head down. No matter how accomplished that little boy might be as an adult now, I am certain he bears the scars of his father’s words today. There could be no encouragement, no hope, no joy in a home like this one.
In contrast, once of my friends in high school had a mom who was his biggest fan and everyone knew it. On the nights when there was a home football game, people filled the stands, in part, to watch this woman cheer, wave her “James flag,” and chew out any referee who made bad calls against her boy. Rather than being embarrassed, James walked tall and grinned at his mom from the field, routinely gulping down her encouragement along with his Gatorade! She was his greatest fan and he was her’s!!!!
Which kind of mom are you? Do you approach your children with a glass is half full attitude or a glass is half empty attitude when it comes to their lives? Do they know you are their greatest fan?
Who can you come alongside today? Who needs a cup of cold water and a kind word?
It’s Monday….encourage somebody!