If you’re reading for the first time, welcome and thank you! I have been trying to make the case in this space that those of us in leadership in the Body of Christ need to be encouragers and to be encouraged by others–with much greater frequency than is usually the case. In so many churches and parachurch organizations–especially those that make an effort to pursue excellence at seemingly any cost–the cup is always 10% empty instead of 90% full, and that mindset wears on the strongest of us. Regularly serving as angelic ministers of encouragement (see 1 Kings 19:5-8) helps us worship our Lord horizontally (to use the vernacular of the day) and benefits the Kingdom in profound ways.
I have been using the acronym BUILD to help flesh this idea out, and we come to L today, which stands for Look purposely for creative ways to bless others. For today’s post, I get to brag on my wife Lea, the love of my life, and one of the kindest and most compassionate people I have ever met. She hates attention of this nature, and this post might provoke a marital conversation this evening, but I venture forth, nevertheless, because this anecdote illustrates the point so well. (My, what a cute couple we were just, oh, a few years ago.)
When my children were little, my mother-in-law purchased an all-day pass for us at one of the largest YMCA’s in the country. We welcomed the opportunity to have the kids burn off some energy in a fun facility like that, and so we pulled into the massive parking lot with great enthusiasm. I went ahead with Amie and Austin to make sure the reservation was in place, and Lea trailed a few minutes behind us, serving as the carrier of the swim toys, goggles, and flippers.
Just inside the front doors sat a young man in a wheelchair who was, very obviously, messed up physically. His body was rigid with paralysis, and he was gaunt to the extent that he almost could have squeezed someone else into the chair with him. As if that weren’t enough, the poor guy couldn’t communicate normally via his vocal cords. And so, once the kids and I walked through the electronically controlled double doors, we were greeted by a pretty hideous-sounding, robotic voice. “Hello!” it/he said.
“Uh, hi, ” I stammered, trying quickly to move past him so as not to have this encounter linger in my kids’ minds, generating nightmares for the next two weeks. Thankfully, he didn’t try to engage in a conversation, and I took the kids up to the front desk, which was still in close enough proximity to see Lea when she entered. (This was before cell phones, or I might have texted her quickly to let her know what to expect, lest she, too, be thrown off kilter by the in-your-face enthusiasm of the mechanical greeting she was about to receive.)
What happened next first surprised, then delighted, and ultimately humbled me. When Lea came in, the guy in the chair greeted her in similar fashion, but instead of acting like the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) and zipping past him as quickly as she could, she stopped, got down on one knee so as to be at his eye level, and began to have a conversation with him. (As a physical therapist who had worked with folks with traumatic brain injuries, this was familiar territory.)
“Hi!” she said. “My name’s Lea. What’s yours?”
Slowly the young man manipulated his arm and the stylus that was attached to the end of his hand so that it descended upon a certain square on what looked like some kind of a checkerboard. When he pressed down on the square, the robotic voice said, “I’m Charlie.”
“What do you do here at the Y, Charlie?”
More movement of the arm. More gently pressing the stylus down upon a certain square. “I’m one of the greeters!”
“Charlie, how did you end up in the chair?”
Still more movement of the arm. Still more gently pressing the stylus down upon a certain square. “I was in a motorcycle accident five years ago.”
And so it went for the next five, somewhat-labored minutes, as Lea had a conversation, at least of sorts, with this guy via his communication device, one that looked something like the one in this picture. As I reflected back on this incident later, it occurred to me that those five minutes probably constituted the longest conversation that guy had had–at least with someone who wasn’t a caretaker–in quite a while. In slowing her schedule down long enough to allow herself to be an agent of grace (see the U in BUILD); by stooping to his level to allow him the dignity of having an eye-level conversation, something he rarely experienced; and by entering, for just a moment, this man’s brokenness, Lea creatively blessed a child of God and gave him encouragement to press on for another day. What a precious gift!
Saints, let’s get our spiritual antennae out and look purposely–in other words, with great intention–for creative ways to bless others as part of our worship of our triune God! It will be effort well extended!
The Lord be with you!