I've had several interactions over the last week that have encouraged me. One such experience results in little thought on my part. I accept it, am thankful for it and think no more about it. But cumulatively (when I'm up to half a dozen specifically encouraging incidents), I see them as promptings that other people have chosen to respond to.
These experiences have been varied: a e-mail from a friend saying she's been thinking about me and wondering if she could pray for me in some way, a conversation with a former teacher of A & B, a text from a friend after an hour and a half of impromptu talking, an acquaintance or two specifically taking time to tell me they enjoy my blog. (Please note, given my recent thoughts on technology, that several of these have been through e-mail or texts. One more reason I think it's important to not throw out all technology or access to it in my home.)
One thing that's been striking to me is how easy it would have been for each of these individuals to not say or write what they did.
My friend could have thought about sending me an e-mail and then said to herself, "Why would I do that? I don't even know her that well. Is she going to think I'm crazy for asking this? I'm not going to e-mail her. I'll just pray for her when I think of her."
Another could have thought, "She just shared on her blog how her daughters have been making mistakes. Should I drop the subject or tell her it helped me to hear that? Will I make her feel worse? I'm not going to bring it up."
Or even, "Why should I text her? She clearly knows I enjoyed talking to her. Why send a text? Will that make me seem needy? A little crazy? I'll just mention it the next time I see her."
Instead, they each went ahead and reached out to me. Either because they don't overthink things like I do or because they responded - consciously or unconsciously - to a prompting from God, who has felt distant from me of late. But bit by bit, I've see his fingerprints and heard his voice in these little messages. I've read an e-mail and heard God whisper in my ear that hard circumstances - in my own life or in the lives of my daughters - and transparency about these circumstances are a part of the invitation to unfurl in 2011.
In my opinion, there's a lot to think about here. There's the question of whether you are being sent similar messages of encouragement, direction or love from God. Are you listening for them? I could missed these messages - individually or their combined impact. Then there's the question I really want you to think about as you read this: are you responding to promptings to encourage others? If you think of someone unexpectedly, do you take that as an opportunity to pray for them? If you see a friend handle a work situation with grace and aplomb, do you tell her? If you value a friend for what she brings into your life, do you say so?
I can pretty easily ignore a message - subtle or direct - to reach out in a specific way. I'm very good at explaining away my ability to influence or encourage others. So I might think about someone and feel incited to e-mail her, even if we haven't talked in a long while. But I talk myself out of it. I explain away the prompting, minimize its potential importance, do nothing. I find I'm actually more likely to act if I do so without much thought. If I do something without pondering, thinking it over or taking my time with it, I'm more likely to do it.
I'm challenged to do this more often - to respond. If I've been so encouraged this week by casual comments, kind e-mails and even a text, think of the encouragement going unsaid when I ignore a prompting. Think about how we could each feel if we let ourselves listen to the big and little messages we are sent everyday. Think about what could happen if we acted on them.