Monday, October 11, 2010


Encouragement used to be a big relational need of mine. As the years have gone by and I've grown more comfortable in my own skin I've needed less and less of it, but I know the power that it can have in people's lives. I don't say that to put myself on a pedestal, I have my relational needs, but that happens not to really be one of them anymore as I've become more self-reliant and able to garner esteem by being and feeling like a person of purpose. I have found that sometimes the easiest way to get through to one of our j_hi or high school kids is to provide them with encouragement that opens their eyes to their own value and merit. It's beautiful to see people come alive when their skills and prowess are recognized.

Adversely, however, I have seen discouragement wreck lives and make people feel small and lesser of an effective person. In a men's home group many years ago I still remember the tears streaming down a young man's face as he told us of the time that his dad had discouraged him, and how that made him feel like less of a man even years later. Discouragement is a powerful force, as powerful as it's antonym, unfortunately. When wielded carelessly, it can destroy a person in an instant, rob them of their destiny, and prevent them from trying to make their dreams come true and be the person they were meant to be.

This past weekend I had the pleasure and privilege of spending time with someone I recently befriended. She told me about some of her life journey and aspirations over a couple of drinks and it was just an overall fun and memorable evening. Two days later she approached me and expressed worry: she was self-conscious of the fact that she had a couple drinks in front of me and that I might think less of her or be disappointed.

Now on the flip-side, this very same person opened their heart up in her blog and chronicled a very important turning point in her life. She was trapped in an abusive relationship and didn't know how to get out of a very dark and debilitating time. After attending a church service she found the light at the end of the tunnel she was striving for. With a resolve in her heart to be free she mustered the strength she needed to walk away from a sure (albeit hurtful) thing.

If you knew my heart or how my brain works, then you would know that I am a huge fan of strong people. I love seeing someone who weathers through some of the worst storms a person can go through, and then comes out on the other side not defeated and broken, but steadfast and tenacious. I was truly touched, inspired, and moved by this story of personal triumph, of the strength to make the difficult but right choices needed to give her back control of her life, her destiny, her dreams.

Now here she was worried about one instance of what she thought was a bad decision or error in sound judgment (which I didn't feel to be the case), and it made me think about how the enemy likes to work in our lives. Here is a person who possesses great strength and an inspiring life story, but they feel like less than their best because of one moment. We are all human, capable and ready at all times to act out of our fleshly desires and make a bad judgment call here and there (again, I didn't think this to be the case with her, but she thought so at the time). Even the mightiest fall or stumble, including the great author Paul who groused over doing the things he ought not to. It is in those those times of stumbling that the enemy hits you in a precise and destructive way; at your moment of weakness the tides of discouragement wash over you, and you can be led to believe you are only as great as your biggest failure.

This, my friends, is the beauty of being broken people in need of a Savior. This is where you can believe the truth about who you are, who God says you are, and truly realize that you are more than a moment. And when you find strength in those moments you truly cannot feel that you are less than the best person that God has called and destined you to be. This righteous feeling that is our birthright being children of God is the beginning and totality of freedom: the freedom to be who we are, who God made us to be: dirt, imperfections, shortcomings, and all.

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