Having woken up early, I started today by taking the dogs for a quick run before heading out to church.
As anyone who knows me is well aware, running is not my natural state. I’m more of a sitting down kind of person: in a canoe, in my lounger with a book, at my computer writing. But I walk and/or run every day; partly as good exercise for me, partly as a necessity as the human to 2 large and energetic beasts.
I try to keep my time out and about as MY time – I don’t take my phone, I’ve usually got my earbuds in, I often go at hours when ministry interruption walk-ups are minimized.
So out I go! Some days it’s easier than others; this morning was not one of those days. My early morning enthusiasm was starting to wear off shortly after leaving the house; the planned route was getting shorter and shorter each block.
I was about to give up and just walk the rest of the way home, when a car passed us. I didn’t recognize the car or its driver, but in a small town everyone waves. As I was raising my hand to wave, the driver gave me a full thumbs up, and shouted “Way to go!” out the open window.
Suddenly, I felt encouraged, and continued on the rest of my planned route. The dogs certainly enjoyed it (and are still sleeping it off); I know my health is better for it.
The small amount of encouragement made a big difference in my run. While I know that it was just a bit of morning exercise, it got me thinking about how we as Christians are called to do just that – encourage one another. 1 Thessalonians 5.11 is quite clear, that part of our mission and ministry is to encourage one another in order to build one another up.
Imagine if we did just that? If we put aside hesitations or judgement, and instead offered one piece of honest encouragement? It’s easy to do, yet we find ourselves holding back. Based on how good I felt receiving encouragement this morning, I’m going to intentionally make the effort to encourage someone, in some way, every day. It can be easy – see a person working towards good, and let them know that it’s been noticed and appreciated.
Imagine if we encouraged one another’s faith in such a manner? One would hope that, like the Thessalonians, we are already doing just that. It is my hope that the people we encounter are feeling encouraged and built up; it is also (sadly) my experience that sometimes people are feeling the exact opposite. Imagine being told that you’re praying wrong, or that you are too uneducated/young/whatever to exercise a ministry you’re interested in, or that you’re reading scripture wrong? I appreciate that most often, folks are doing these things in an effort to help people, to ideally see them practice towards improvement – but examples like this can be, in my opinion, hindering the building up rather than encouraging it.
Imagine how different people would be towards the church, towards one another, if they felt encouraged. Imagine if the felt empowered and inspired to continue on – knowing that there may be mistakes and errors, but also knowing that there will be growth? Imagine if we all decided to seek out only the good in those we encounter, and went out of our ways to support that.
A thumbs up from a stranger this morning helped me continue on my short run; imagine how encouragement from a brother/sister in Christ could help someone’s spiritual journey continue in a positive way.