"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up..." ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Though the power of influence is usually most evident in bits and pieces and over a period of time, we should not discredit the one-time occasions that can impact a life. In fact, if you take the time to think back over your years, I am sure you will remember people who have done or said something that you will never forget and always cherish. One of those influential moments in my life came from Larry, or as my family refers to him, Brother Larry.
Larry and Eleanor have four children; their youngest and my oldest were born within a few months of each other. As a new mom, I spent most of my time during church services in the foyer. It was my part in taking care to reduce the noise interruption for those in the sanctuary who had the freedom to sit through and concentrate on sermons. Still, occasional thoughts of What's the use of coming if I can't hear? crept into my mind. I quickly shrugged them off as I decided that my consistent attendance was important, and so I learned to enjoy what I like to call foyer-ministry: opportunities for conversation, encouragement, and advice from and to others.
It was during one of these foyer-ministry opportunities that I carried my squirmy and chatty first-born, as I also struggled to keep up with the powerpoint slides that were visible through the thick glass. As Larry made his way to the double doors that led into the sanctuary, he stopped in front of me, looked at my daughter, smiled, and said, "Looks like she is going to be the CEO of a company some day!" I smiled back, but inside his words confused me; I had't a single clue as to how to interpret that assessment of a 6 month old baby!
Well, fast forward another year and a half - to the birth of my second baby, a son. By this time I had learned a few things about motherhood and babies. It was my second morning in the hospital when a nurse woke me up at 5AM to wake and feed my son. I stood my ground firmly, but gently, and said, "If he's still sleeping at this hour, he doesn't feel the need to eat yet." I went back to sleep after she left, to then wake up a few hours later to a slightly fussy baby. I changed his diaper, picked him up, then nursed him. I noticed that he was content from the moment he realized I was near. It was as if he sensed that his need was about to be met. How different he is from Isabella, I thought. Then it hit me: Whoa...this child IS different! Because I wasn't a new mom anymore, my perception was now clearer! As a result, I had learned to confidently identify the needs and behaviors of my children. It was then that Brother Larry's words came rushing back into my mind, this time, with a sense of understanding.
You see, because Larry had been watching the process of three older children grow, he had already understood that babies are born with God-given qualities that are good indicators of whom they may become and what they might do with their lives. While I saw what I thought was a beautiful, strong-willed, and active baby that I was determined to keep in-line; Larry saw a strong personality with potential to become a woman whose mind was steadfast - a natural leadership quality.
That morning in the hospital, I looked at my baby boy, thought about my 2 year-old daughter, then marveled at the importance of perception. Now that I understood Larry's assessment, I realized that it was my job to steer my strong-willed daughter towards becoming steadfast and away from stubbornness. I also realized that this is God's heart towards us: He has purposely given us traits that He means for us to use for good. We need to be wise, however, because those same traits can draw out negative character qualities when we don't think and live by His standards. The amazing part is that, as parents, we "get" to play a part in this process: seeing our children through our Father's eyes, and using what we see to help them fulfill His unique purpose for their lives.
Thank you, Brother Larry, for taking the time to stop all those years ago and give this mom a quick, encouraging word. It was a gift that keeps on giving! Your words continue to encourage me as I raise my kids and as I share my perception-changing moment with others.
Finally, here is a quick example of a dad I know whose Facebook posts encourage others through his real-life fatherhood perspectives and experiences. I trust that you will also find simple ways to encourage those around you. Feel free to share examples from your life (in the comment section below) of how God has led you to regularly incorporate encouraging others!