Courage to Encourage by Michelle Jones

The road to Hell is too often paved with “good advice.”  I found that out one day during one hell of a conversation.

I shared my plans to take on my weight with my friend Lee (not her real name).  I told her how excited I was about my quest to “release weight on the inside and shed pounds on the outside.”  I dreamt aloud about being able to become free in my own body and then help others get free.  My enthusiasm was evident.

Then I heard that hisssssss that happens when you toss a bucket of water on a burning fire.

“You look fine.  Your clothes fit you fine.  What kind of standard are you trying to live up to?

“Look at my frame,” I told her.  “I should not be carrying this much weight on this bony frame.  I have more fat on me than is healthy.  Plus, the pounds are just an outward expression of inward issues.  The inside is my focus.  Once that’s dealt with, the pounds take care of themselves.”  I was sure she could hear me grinning proudly from ear to ear over the phone.  I was wrong.

She seemed agitated by my answer.  “I don’t understand.  Why can’t you just be satisfied with the way God made you,” she snapped back, “with whatever bones and flesh, and puffy fat you have?  Why do you have to beat yourself up?”

“This is not the way God designed me!  I did this to me.”  I was so frustrated.  I was making sound, practical, honest sense to my own ears.  Why wasn’t she hearing me?

“I have obviously not been a good steward of the body God gave me,” I said.

“Says who?  That’s just low self-esteem talking.”

Was she actually fighting me about this?

“Look, I just want you to be happy,” she finally said.

“Want me to be whole,” I countered.  “Want me to be healthy and healed.  Want me to be willing to do the work, even when I’m not happy.  Want me to have joy, which doesn’t always come with being happy.”

“I just want you to be happy.”  She said it again.  It seemed to depress her and take the wind out of her sails that I wasn’t willing to settle in where my bad choices had put me.  She sort of sighed like she was giving up on her pathetic friend and said her good-byes.

I thought about how desperately she was trying to change my mind about this.  She really thought she was helping me.  And she was angry that I was being so stubborn.

How much damage do we do when we fail to encourage a brother or sister’s attempts to improve themselves?  How badly do we hinder their progress when we push them toward complacency and compromise?  “God loves you just the way you are.”  How many times has that beautiful truth been used to murder someone in pursuit of her destiny?

Of course God loves me just as I am.  And because He’s God—unchangeable and complete—He or His love will not become greater if I am fitter, richer, or nicer.  Nor will it lessen if I take up drinking or stripping.  God’s love for me is not in question.  And it’s not the point.

The point is this:  If I decide to become someone better than I am, ENCOURAGE ME.

If I choose to evolve, grow, break free of some things that have held me bound for too long, ENCOURAGE ME.  Don’t keep showing me the easy way out, or the low bar.  I’m stronger than that.  Let me live up to the expectations of the Spirit within me.

If I want to go deep into my soul, and pull out all the painful, ugly, garbage that keeps me afraid of intimately connecting with others, ENCOURAGE ME.  There is no safety in hiding.  There is only loneliness, and none of us wants to stay lonely.

Pain and discomfort are a part of living, but you do me no favors when you tell me to embrace the consequences of my transgressions along with the suffering.  You are not helping me when you ask me to be satisfied with running half a race.  There’s no such thing as half a win or a partial prize.

ENCOURAGE ME.  Give me some of your courage, because I may be afraid as I move forward.

If you don’t have any courage for me—if you have no confidence in me, or you are too afraid that I will fail—say nothing at all.  Just watch and pray.

And when I finish this race, I will encourage you.

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4 Comments

  1. February 25, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Loving encouragement is all we want! Thank you for giving a guidline for us to know what we need and the courage to go for it!

  2. emily said,

    February 25, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Thanks for being not afraid to be and live in His wholeness. It makes me desire and want to step into my own. Praying and loving Him for the both of us. Thanks for writing and speaking here.

  3. mercedes said,

    March 1, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    Can I share this? In fact can I pin it up on my front door? Send it in a text message? I am not playing. Do you know that my friends, saved friends, people who I know love me, have been actually irritated that I will not pursue relationship with a deadbeat man? Because “he loves me” and they want me to “be happy” and when I say I do not want to compromise, that God has healed me from settling because I now know who I am, more importantly who HE IS! and I will not settle just for the sake of having someone. Oh I am going on tangent here, but sister I needed you to speak the words I could not speak with clarity! Thank you! Thank you!

  4. Ruth said,

    March 26, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Thank you for writing this. I’ve experienced the same in other areas of struggle where the well meant “good advice” received did more harm than “good”.


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