Here’s a general update on what my family and I have been up to. My wife and I have recently sold our house. It’s a big deal because we have been trying to sell it for over three years now. It’s a great home, but we outgrew it rather quickly, and we really need more space. We found a new house that we really like, and we put a couple offers on it. Finally, an offer was accepted and we are moving in. The period between moving out of the old house and moving into the new house was expected to be about 3 weeks. To save money we moved in with my parents who have an extra room, basically a three season room, where we sleep. We were fine spending three weeks sleeping at my parents. The issue is that it has now been close to two months and we still have no definite closing date on the new house. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it is very frustrating because we make a date for it, we get close to the date, and we get news that the lending company needs about two more weeks to process our paperwork. Repeat, repeat, repeat. It’s not a traumatic experience but it is quite frustrating. Now here’s how this story fits into my writing…
Have you ever been struggling with something going on in your life that was really difficult for you? Have you ever been in that position and had someone else tell you of something they were struggling with that made your issue seem a lot less severe? Doesn’t it almost make you feel silly? It can be a very humbling experience if you allow it to be. How were they handling it? Did they seem like they were totally falling apart, or could you hardly even tell there was something bothering them at all? It amazes me to see people dealing with issues that I feel would totally wear me down, and yet they are just rolling on with their lives, still offering help to others and dealing with it as if it were planned.
There are some folks who I would never believe even had to deal with a hardship in their whole life! Maybe they did, but they handled it flawlessly. I bet they never get mad, never get upset, nothing hurts their feelings, and they just smile all the time and life is great! Man, when am I going to reach that point? I go to church, I pray, I love Jesus, when is my life going to be that perfect?
Some of these people are folks that I really look up to. They are true role models for me. I don’t envy what they have, but I really hope that I can do well enough to someday be where they are now. There are people my own age, even people younger than me that I look up to in this way. Remember, I got a late start on trying to lead a productive life.
There has been a theme, a particular subject that I feel has been pounded into my brain in recent weeks. Encouragement. I see it in tweets, it comes up in conversations, and it has been the basic subject of some recent sermons. I really started paying attention to people around me, folks I deal with on a daily basis, and I found that I actually hear more discouraging words in a day than words of encouragement. Not just directed towards me, but just in general, in other conversations around me. It usually takes the form of sarcasm or some kind of joke or whatever else. There certainly isn’t anything wrong with being goofy with your friends, but I see it become a way to avoid being personal. I don’t know why it is, but it seems like it’s easier for people to play around and joke about things than it is for people to be real with each other. Being real, and honest, and actually saying what you truly feel, makes you a bit of an odd ball. I don’t understand that. I don’t care I’m a bit of an odd ball anyway.
So I got tired of all the negativity around me. Especially when people say “Just deal with it, that’s the way the world is now.” That’s gotta be my favorite new line to hear. “Just accept it. Don’t try to change anything, roll with it, that’s how it is. Porn is on the internet and violence is on TV. Your kids are gonna see it anyway, deal with it.” I don’t think so. So here is what I did. I decided that I was going to make absolute certain, no matter what, that I offered at least one bit of the most honest, genuine, kind, piece of encouragement to someone, ANYONE, at least once a day. Ideally to the person who seems to need it the most. I didn’t care how many goofy looks it earned me, and it would earn me plenty because people don’t see that coming! There’s a guy I work with (two now that I think of it) that, no matter what kind of mood I’m in, I could be totally upset, fed up, irritated in every way, if they come up and talk to me, I just can’t help but smile. That’s how I want to be to other people. I want to be THAT guy. I want to be THAT encouraging! I got a few days into it, and then I realized how terrible my social skills really are.
Do you ever have a conversation with someone, and shortly after it’s over wonder why you said what you said to them? Do you over analyze the conversation to the point that you are sure they took what you said the wrong way, and now you want to have another conversation to fix all the mistakes you made in the previous one? But you can’t because you know that you will make new mistakes in that one too, and it will go on forever until they are certain that you are a whacko? That’s me! Everyday. I often tell people that writing comes easier to me than speaking. I think sometimes they take that the wrong way. I don’t think I’m that good of a writer, I just know that I’m that horrible at talking to people. It’s not that I don’t like to, because I do. I just know I’m not good at it! So the “one encouraging act a day” ministry didn’t take off like I wanted it to. How can I be that guy? How can I be that encouraging?
After that, I thought about all my role models, all these people with perfect lives, and what it was about them that I found encouraging. What is it about them that I admire? I began to discover things. I received prayer requests for people that I didn’t realize needed my prayers. I found out that these people are regular people, with regular problems just like I have. Some of the people that seem to have their lives all together, that I admire so greatly, deal with problems that would crumple my spine up like an old accordion. They deal with them regularly. That’s pretty encouraging.
How do I get to the point in my life where I can deal with problems like my role models can? I’ve known the answer to that question since the first time I heard someone say “faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains!” I’ve read it a thousand times! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! Joshua 1:9 is highlighted in my bible, “have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
It’s in your life! It’s how you live! Want to see encouragement? Look at someone fighting cancer that can wake up and smile because they aren’t afraid of death. I can read a million inspirational haikus on some sappy website, but those words will never give me the courage that I receive when I see people with solid faith follow Christ through the greatest knee crippling struggle they will ever encounter, and thank Jesus for their blessings, knowing that God will never make them go at it alone. I am encouraged by how these people live. Words mean nothing without actions. And I’m mad about living on a porch? I thank GOD for this porch!
How will people ever believe what you say if it isn’t present in your life? My role models push aside their own problems, no matter how large, to tend to the needs of others. They don’t have it all together, they are far from it, but they have faith that they are following the plan put together for them by their creator.
Think about this one. He was nailed to a cross, and his body was torn to shreds, he was tortured, and he died. Why? For you. Because he cared about you enough to do that. People with faith in Jesus know that they don’t have to do it by themselves. They know that their struggles are a part of Gods plan, even if sometimes that is hard to believe, and even though they may at times seem unbearable. That confidence and strength is what encourages me.
If you have ever been encouraged in this way, please consider passing it on. There will always be people trying to keep you from doing it. Some people are happier seeing you miserable like them, than seeing you lifted and trying to lift others. It may even be hurtful when you see who some of those people are. They may be close to you. I ask you not to let them pull you down. Not just for yourself, but for anyone else who may be watching you, and may need to see strength and faith in the face of hardship. Believe me, there are people looking to you hoping to see something great, and you have no idea that they are there.
There are people that will never know that their faith, and strength, and courage absolutely saved my life. I don’t think I can ever thank them. I don’t think there are words for it. The most silver tongued, smooth words I could ever muster would be like all the wise men bringing Jesus socks on his birthday. I’m not giving Jesus socks, I’m giving Jesus my life. All there is to do is pass it on, and be that person to someone else, like they were to me. I want to be that guy. I want to be that encouraging.