There are many different things we artistic types need, right? We need the critics (I guess, LOL), who keep us from becoming complacent. We need the editors, who help us ratchet up tension, smooth out writing, and cut away any excess to make our stories more our stories by helping us really dig down to the heart of them. We need the audience to interact with our creation and show us where it resonates and where it doesn’t. But we also need someone like this. We need encouragers.
Okay, that’s not just for artistic types. We all need encouragers.
At this point, six little days before I turn in my manuscript, I don’t need someone telling me it’s all wrong. I need someone who frequently laughs over one of my characters’ witticisms and says, “I love your writing.” I don’t need someone who says, “Wow, you’re going to have work more on this part.” (Even though that might be true.) I need someone who says, “Oh, I see what you’re doing. This one line might be too on-the-nose, but that’s clever.” I need someone who not only believes in me, but who celebrates each little victory with me. I need someone who, even amidst mistakes and weak parts, has complete faith that I can do what needs to be done.
We can never over-sell the importance of someone like that in our lives–and especially concerning the thing we feel called to do. The thing God’s led us to. The Hard Thing we’re working on.
Because when we’re in the trenches–on the mission field, in hour twelve of a hospital shift, two weeks from the end of a school year, or a week away from a due date–sometimes we forget the big view, right? We forget the why of what we’re doing. The how and the that are just so overwhelming sometimes. We can’t really focus on the purpose, because we’re so caught up in the details.
And when we’re doing the thing God called us to do, we’re going to have troubles too. The Enemy is going to be trying to tear us down. To stop us. To make it seem too hard, not worth it. All around us, we’re going to find those who discourage us. Those who say we’re crazy for even trying this thing. That we should have done something safer. More logical. That we should look out for ourselves more and others less. That we’re not even that good at the thing we’ve put our hand to.
But let’s take a minute just to look at these words: encourage, discourage. What’s the root? (Didn’t know you were getting a bonus Word of the Week post, did you? Haha.) COURAGE. Encourage actually means “to put heart or courage into.” And discourage, of course, then means to take it out.
So why do we ever listen to the voices of discouragement? Why do we let people take our heart? Why do we ever entertain those voices, when by definition they’re harmful to us? Maybe we’ve done something wrong, maybe we’ve messed up, maybe we’re not the best we can be–but we don’t improve by letting our heart, letting our courage be taken away. We improve by strengthening our hearts.
I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by encouragers in my life. And I’m hereby renewing my determination to be one too. My challenge to all of us this week is to speak encouragement into someone’s life. Maybe it’s your spouse, your child, your sister, your mom. Or maybe it’s your pastor, a teacher, or the cashier in the checkout line. Whoever it is, wherever it is, if you see that shadow of discouragement in them, speak against it. When you see their heart faltering, offer something to strengthen it again.
Because we, as children of God, are not called to steal anyone else’s heart, to discourage their calling, or to be the storm cloud in their life. We’re called to encourage, to edify, and to support one another. And when we do that well…well, watch out, world. The Church will be on the move!