Encouragement … A story.
Edith joined a house group I was leading one Lent. The course was about prayer and in one session we were encouraged to pray aloud for people and things that concerned us. We were given a week’s notice and just before we were due to meet again, Edith sent for me. She told me that she would have to miss the next session. She had an anxious and slightly guilty look so I probed a bit deeper. She was scared of praying aloud because she had nothing to pray about. “You see, I’m not very spiritual.”
I think what she meant was that she wasn’t very pious. She thought that people had to put on a very posh or sugary voice when they prayed aloud in church, believing that you have to speak to the Almighty in a certain way. Edith was too down to earth for that. So I asked her how her daughter was. She was going through a horrendous divorce. Edith told me all her anxieties and how she hoped God would strengthen her and be with her and the children and so on and so on. At the end I said to her, ‘say “Amen”‘. She asked me what I meant.
‘Well,’ I told her, ‘you’ve just been praying about your daughter for ten minutes so you might as well say “Amen”.’
Edith was no fool and she got it right away. ‘I have, haven’t I?’
‘Now come to the group and do it there in a safe environment amongst your friends.’
And that is exactly what she did and everyone present promised to pray for her daughter. I saw a life lit up with new joy.
Edith didn’t join the rota for the intercessions but she told me that she joined in the prayers much more and found that she was growing closer to God as a result. She also encouraged others to pray more and aloud! She became a real ‘encourager’.
In the church family, she had her own special place. She made all the linen and vestments for the worship. She was an amazing seamstress and everything she made was for the enhancement of the service of God. She told me that since she had spoken in the group, she now prayed every single stitch. It connected what she did to God. ‘It’s important to give God the best,’ she said. ‘After all, look what he’s given to us in Jesus. He’s given us so much love and grace. We must give our all to God!’
Of course, as she reminded me, she wasn’t spiritual!!
Yet she gave her all to God and that day when she prayed aloud in that Lent group, she gave a bit more. And it made her happier than ever.
I noticed that she encouraged others more and, on St Barnabas’ day I reflect on how important it is that we encourage each other. Barnabas was born Joseph but he earned the nickname, Barnabas’ which means ‘encourager’. He encouraged the infant church by selling his land and giving all he had. He encouraged Mark who was then encouraged to write the first Gospel account. He encourages us not least to encourage others! When we are an encouragement to others we help them to grow and become the person God has created and loves totally. To each of us God gives gifts but sometimes they get a bit hidden. People need a little help, sometimes.
Barnabas understood that and so did Edie.