I had a chance to spend some time with the staff of our Parkview Lockport Campus. It was a brilliant time in our favorite retreat center, sharing our lives and seeking new ways to grow in Christ as we serve in this place and time. The standout moment for me was a time when the team was encouraging each other as to how they were living out Matthew 22:37-40:
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind...Love your neighbor as yourself." (my paraphrase)
The team spoke about each other's work and witness, their example and their impact, and they spoke clearly and directly to each other. I was struck by how this kind of thing doesn't happen often.
Not that we don't have people try to encourage us - send us cards, notes, or speak encouraging words to us - but there are times when it feels...forced.
It feels like an obligation instead of gift. Flowers to a wife after a forgotten anniversary. Atonement instead of grace.
The New Testament uses the word parakaleo for "encourage" - but it can also mean begging, exhorting, or calling together for a purpose. Here's the reality that each usage brings - encouragement happens primarily in the context of relationship.
The secret sauce of our soul's health and growth is to be encouraged by those that know us well.
Our Lockport staff could speak deeply and persuasively because they were known by each other. They were seen clearly.
When you know someone, you know when they're blowing smoke and when they're being genuine.
When you know someone, you can call out sacred and profane things in their life without speculating.
When you know someone, you can prayerfully join the Spirit of God in lifting them up in profound, life-giving ways.
God's Spirit encourages us because He knows us. He knows us at the kernel of our existence and calls us to intensify the good and mortify the destructive. We are handed a schematic map of one of the most potent gifts we can give to another person by the sheer identity and motion of the God of the Universe.
If we are Jesus disciples, we should be learning from Him how to know each other well and use that knowledge to lift each other up.
Who are you living in relationship with today? Do they know you well enough to truly encourage you? Who do you need to give the intense and beautiful gift of encouragement to today?