His name was Curmudgeon (not really, but that’s a good descriptive term that allows me to protect his identity). He was irascible, irritable, petulant, and a grouch. And yes, I understand how synonymous those words are, but I’m trying to paint a clear picture.
As a teenager, I remember visiting the church where he was a member. During that service, he stood up and argued with the preacher in the middle of his sermon.
If you can imagine, it was quite the spectacle and shocking even for those who were not visiting, and it planted an undeniable vision in my young brain of his character and nature.
Fast forward some fourteen years and I was a recently discharged Sailor serving full time with the aforementioned congregation as their associate/ youth minister. That was a challenging work in several ways, but a work in which I have such good and fond memories.
During my tenure there, I was strongly encouraged (a nice church way of saying I was given a task and it wasn’t up for discussion) to go visit my soon to be curmudgeon friend on a weekly basis. And I did.
I dutifully went to the nursing home where he was a resident every week for several months. When I say this man was a character, there is no way to adequately describe how much of a character he was. He’d been a circus clown, an oilfield roustabout, and a subdivision developer—and those are just the things I remember almost thirty years later.
Some years before I began spending time with him, he lost both legs and thus he was wheelchair bound. That didn’t help his already irascible nature. Not at all. But nevertheless to use a couple of old King James Version expressions, I girded up my loins and determined to quit ye like men.
And so, I visited. Ostensibly, my visits were to be an encouragement to him. On some level, I suspect that I did however slowly. But over time, a relationship was made. I began to see him smile and brighten up when I walked into his room. And what’s more amazing is how quickly those have-to-because-I-was-told-to visits became a want-to high point of my week.
I went there to encourage, but found friendship, kinship, brotherhood, and much joy. It wasn’t long until our whole family was involved. Several years before my son Cole had the surgeries that allowed him to walk on his own, he would use our friend’s wheelchair (with him in it) as a part of his physical therapy. I have vivid memories of Cole working his way up and down the hall pushing that wheelchair as a walker.
And the incessant grouch (not me, the other one)? He blossomed with patience and love and the desire to be of help to my son. He had a purpose. He found meaning even without two legs. With a little encouragement, he became a consummate encourager.
My friend is long gone on to his reward. I had the privilege of officiating his celebration of life service. And it was a celebration.
I smile at the memories, because in so many ways, the encourager (me) became the encouraged.
Hebrews 10:24–25 says, And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching. (CSB17)
Encouraging one another is something each of us can and should do. And while we don’t encourage others from a what’s-in-it-for-me point of view, the benefits run both ways.
And the verses above? Look at them again, but this time from the Message:
Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.
See that word, inventive? Try another word in its place: Let’s see how creative we can be in encouraging love and helping out…
Look around you:
–Someone you know is struggling with something heavy—loss, heartache, etc.
–Someone around you hasn’t a clue what their purpose in life is.
–Someone you see regularly is lonely, depressed, and desperately wants a friend.
–Someone you know has a financial need.
–Someone you know feels guilt, shame, and unworthiness.
Exercise your creativity. Be inventive. Share good news. Be good news. A little bit of encouragement may very well transform someone’s life–and that includes your own.
As I said in a sermon this past Sunday, I am cheering you on.
With God, good things happen!