“I’m done.” I told him one evening. Ready to give up, the cumulative stress of four years of church planting had finally taken its toll and I wanted out. He kissed me goodbye and headed out for yet another meeting, leaving me to stew over my frustration alone.
I heard the fight bell ring. (Not literally, it’s the sound of my text message alert.) One of the newer members of our small congregation wrote only this, “We are stopping by to drop something off for you in an hour.”
“OK.” I replied. I assumed it was some recommended reading for my husband or a jacket one of the kids left in the gym on Sunday. The only impact this was going to have on my life, today, was now I would have to wait to put on my pajamas.
I heard her knock and rushed to open the door. Much to my surprise, there she stood holding flowers, wine, a newly released DVD, and chocolate. She said only a few words. But, the ones that stuck out to me the most went like this, “There are two candy bars there, you can share one with Eric or you can eat them both.”
She was there to encourage me.
Can I just tell you that this one gesture got me through the next few days and weeks? Other acts of kindness from our congregation piled on top of that propelling a massive wave of encouragement that lasted at least for the next month or two.
The truth is I didn’t know a little encouragement could make that big of a difference. But, now, I believe the act of building each other up is a lot like oxygen. We need it. We crave it. And we die without it.
Or, better yet, encouragement is like chocolate… chocolate to a starving (or, more likely, PMSing) woman’s soul.
We spend so much time fretting about how we can be better at this or do better at that. We stress over what we are accomplishing (or likely not accomplishing) each day and can’t sleep at night because of all that is left undone for the morning. And, all that most of us really need to make our days a little easier and our burdens feel a little lighter is just a bit of encouragement.
We long for someone to tell us we are doing just fine. That it’s all going to be alright.
We need someone to remind us that we don’t have to measure up to culture’s crazy standards.
We thirst for someone to shower us with the refreshing news that we are enough.
And, we desire to know that we are loved, right now, today. Not when we get our act together or finally lose that weight or get back in shape.
In most cases, we don’t actually need someone to come in and fix all of our problems. We just need someone to say, “Hey, you are doing just fine. Keep up the good work.”
But often, instead of encouraging each other, we shy away from extending those words of grace. We get too busy looking through the lens of condemnation at ourselves (and all of the ways we fall short) to feel like we can offer encouragement to anyone else. Beaten down, defeated women make lousy cheerleaders.
What if we took our eyes off of ourselves and started to wildly encourage one another?
What if, just for a week, we tried to take captive those thoughts about not measuring up? What if, instead of comparing ourselves to that woman we think is doing better, we complimented her on what we’ve observed?
What kind of a difference would that make?
To be honest, my writing is fueled by the encouragement I receive from readers. It’s hard some days to keep going and feel like a “little blog” can make any kind of difference in this world on this ginormous (I know that’s not a real word) issue. But, then I get a note from someone that says, “Thank you.” Or, a Facebook message that says, “Hey I found your blog and I’m just like you…” And, I want to keep writing. My hungry writer’s soul is so thankful for those bites of chocolate.
Here’s my challenge for you this week. I want you to write down 5 women with whom you have been comparing yourself. If this isn’t a struggle for you, write down the name of 5 women you know whom you admire. Then, at some point this week, I want you to make a point of encouraging them. You don’t have to show up at their house with flowers and chocolate and a great movie (Although you’d take your friendship to a different level if you did, I bet!) But, you can post on their Facebook wall, “Hey, I think you are a really great mom.” Or, “I love how you serve at our church.” Or, “I really like your sense of style. You have a knack for fashion.”
Or, text them something like this, “You are important. God is using you.”
What kind of a difference would even a small, seven word sentence like this make in the life of the women you know?
Will you try it? Will you be brave and put your own worries aside? See how shifting your focus and encouraging other women around you makes a difference in your perspective this week.
I want a full report.
Heather, I LOVE this article! Not just because it’s written in your trademark clever and witty style, honest, and transparent; but also because the point you make is such a doubly important one. Encouragement IS like chocolate whether you’re the one giving it or receiving it–just the thing we need to feel better. 🙂
Thanks so much, Tarah! 🙂