The gym class was crowded. A breeze billowed from the fans above the workout stations. I could hear the labored breathing of the two people surrounding me on their rowing machines. 400 meters, then run on the treadmill. 300 meters, then run on the treadmill.
Rinse and repeat. A purgatorial cycle. Death was moments away. I felt it.
During one transition from treadmill back to the rower of death, the guy next to me turned and raised his hand to high-five mine. It was a sweaty, low impact, feather-touch high-five, yet still a high-five. Two seconds to notice me, then he was back to his workout. Game face unchanged.My energy jolted. Even though my limbs ached and burned, my feet gained speed on the treadmill and my arms pumped harder on the rower. I aimed to kill the workout. “High-Five Guy”s recognition would not be in vain.”High-Five Guy” could have put his head down and ignored me. He could have maintained tunnel vision on his own workout. He could have zoned out to those around him. But he didn’t. He chose to notice me and take action to buoy my spirits. I, in turn, finished that workout with zest and strength. I remained pepped up, all because someone extended their hand to me in solidarity.
Here is the power of encouragement.
Too often, I think people will require too much from me. I’ll have to go out of my way, be inconvenienced, or find time on my already-packed calendar for a 2-hour block of prayer, vigilance, and oil-anointing needed to make a significant impact on someone. The cycle of potential expectations whirls around in my head, making me feel exhausted before I even have the chance to notice.The reality is that encouragement doesn’t ask much of me. It only looks for my availability to its movement in my life. It asks me to pay attention. To be vulnerable. To see right in front of me, around me, or next to me.To notice the tired cashier at the check-out lane and ask how she is.To ask the restaurant server his name and leave a good tip, even if he doesn’t give the greatest of service. To exhibit patience when road service workers shut down the road on my commute to work. Instead of yelling at them, smiling and waving as I pass, knowing they have a tough job. To spend time at dinner with my family, asking about their day, listening to their responses. To smile, from deep within my soul, to anyone who approaches me, as I know that they might need hope, or love, or joy, radiated to them. In Scripture, we are familiar with the specific stories of Jesus’ miracles. The blind man on the roadside, or woman with the issue of blood, or the raising of Lazarus from the dead. What I’ve been thinking about lately, though, are the stories that weren’t accounted for. John writes, in the last part of his Gospel, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book…” In the book of Acts, Peter described Jesus as the one who “went about doing good.”Doing good deeds for others was a way of life for Jesus. The Gospel writers couldn’t capture all the stories because they didn’t have enough parchment paper. Maybe they just focused on the big stories to keep our attention on the power of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean there were not hundreds upon hundreds of tiny acts done by Jesus that changed people’s lives. I like to think, that when Jesus was around town, He did a lot of smiling and high-fiving and playing with small children. I think he ate well, danced often, and always had time to listen to whoever was nearby.
Perhaps I am reading between the lines of the Gospels to formulate these ideas,
but I’m convinced Jesus knew that sometimes people need a sermon,
and other times, people need a hug.
Negativity bombards us every day. Hurt and pain surround those that we love and those that are strangers to us. The world is tumultuous, uncertain, and downright scary at times. I’m not propounding the belief that life can be all sunshine and flowers and a good time, nor am I suggesting that we all walk around with fake grins plastered on.Rather, I believe it is in the mess that the calling of Jesus becomes real for His followers. His light, His love, His hope – those are the life-giving, heart-changing attributes that can flood through us to the bruised, the battered, and the worn-out souls. If we can’t be the ones to bring the hope, then the Good News must not be that good.Last week, at my job, a lady came to us to sign some legal documents. Since I am the notary public, I was there, with my attorneys, to notarize her signature and log it officially for the state of Colorado.She commented to me, “This must be a fun job for you, huh?”“Yes, I do enjoy it very much.”“I knew it – because you’ve been smiling this whole meeting. Does she always smile?” She asked my attorney.He nodded. “Yep. She’s always smiling.”A smile. A handshake. A hug. A helping hand. A listening ear. These small things can change someone’s day. These minute responses impact the world around us. God is aching to embrace the person closest to us, and He wants to use our open arms to do it. We have the opportunity to be the conduit of grace, if only we engage.
Who knows what load we will lift? Who knows which person we might impact?
Who knows the change we might effect in our home, our workplace, or our community?
I can’t wait to found out.
So, with our hearts overflowing with His love
and our arms stretched wide by His grace,
may our presence, in our homes and in our work, make the difference.
May His peace radiate from us.
May His joy be our strength.
May we know, deep within us, that we are loved, valued, and cared for.
We’ve got Good News.
While we walk this earth, let’s encourage, build up, and do good.
Thank you, High-Five Guy, for all you taught me…in 2 seconds.
P.S. Let’s lift each other up…just like this…