We stood on the sidewalk, the runners turning at the 25.4 mile mark, and we grew hoarse handing out courage. “You can do this!” “You’re on the homestretch!” My children, myself and my parents, we all waved neon signs, scanning the runners for Matt, Stephanie, Andy, Felicia, Rachel. While we waited for our dear ones, we encouraged fellow runners, exhausted strangers, orange balloon archway finish line still out of sight. And yes, we all encourage in our own unique way:
They barely looked up, determination stretched their eyes forward unseeing, exhaustion weighing heavy. It was then that we learned to read names above numbers pinned to their shirts,
“Michelle, you are doing this.”
“John, you are finishing strong.”
We were strangers, dots in the cloud of witnesses, risking care. Hearing their name, they glanced up, breathing deep of hope.
It’s an upside down Kingdom. We think it’s the big things that matter, the filled amphitheaters, the google analytics numbers, but it’s the looking into the eyes…it’s the speaking of a name…it’s the sowing love one seed at a time down the same row of someone’s life.
Because life is a slow marathon, the miles pursuing the weary and we all need en-couragement, water in small cups refreshing us for the next mile.
Because when we put our head down checking off our never-ending to do lists, we think we are never enough and it is the small seed of authentic care that lifts our face.
Because sometimes like this daughter, we need someone to run with us. And like my precious friend, Teresa, you just can’t help yourself, breaking out of the crowd in your Toms, springing toward your girl. When you live encouragement, feed encouragement from plates at your kitchen island, whisper encouragement over the phone, the risk becomes easy. Then when you see her tired slagging steps you can’t help but step off the sidewalk and take her hand pink placard and all.
When we practice encouragement, the leap to run beside no longer feels foreign.
Because maybe encouragement is just Love 101 when learning to give. And when we encourage, forgetting ourselves, running beside is just the next logical step. We are just following the Paraclete’s example, the Come-along-side-One.
And this is why I write, because I can see your faces headed toward the finish line, tired and not seeing victory yet. I wish I could hand you a small cup of gatorade, watch you drink the courage straight down.
Because I wish I knew your name, the story you’ve been growing in your heart. I wish I could whisper, “You might be exhausted by the end of the night, spent clean empty, but you are loved and I know you gave armfuls today. You bathed little ones, cupped water in your hands to pour over their heads and looked into their big eyes, whispering love. You nourished hearts, filled bellies and Mama, you did Jesus work today. Thank you.”
And to my sister friend who pushes paper and stares at felted cubicle walls and wonders if what she does matters: you rub shoulders with an office full of broken beautiful stories and God image bearers and my dear, the light shines bright from inside your makeshift walls. You are doing Jesus work today. Thank you.
And to you, the minister, who wonders if he/she is giving enough, living hard enough, reaching out enough, praying enough. You, my friend, are a Sower, throwing seed liberally. Keep giving out Jesus, throwing truth out to root. Elizabeth, you’re doing this. Chris, you are running with endurance. You are doing Jesus work today. Thank you.
And you too who work in a turnstile for the sick, check charts, feel pulses. When you enter a room, you hold the hand of Jesus and the Healer walks straight into the realms of the sick with you. That’s Jesus work. Thank you, dear one.
I wish I knew your name and could tell you, “Friend, you’ve got eyes just like your Father’s and that face, it is radiant, reflecting His light. And dear one, you are beautiful. Keep running. Together, you and He, you’ve got this.”
And you friend, where do you need encouragement today?
Linking with the talented storyteller, Laura Boggess here: