“Don’t worry – you’ll get it.”
“Okay, you’re getting close…”
“You’re almost there.”
Whether it was working on a boat motor, prepping a tree to cut down, or building a cabin, every step of the way there was encouragement.
Last week one of my most important lifelong mentors finally succumbed to cancer. He came into my life when I was crossing the great chasm between adolescence and young adulthood. Physically, he was a very imposing person; yet his interpersonal skills were some of the best I have ever experienced. Bright, articulate, accomplished, yet humble and compassionate… he could build or fix anything and he loved to share his vast amount of knowledge with others who were interested. I learned a significant amount from him, and a lot of it had to do with working, leading, and encouraging others.
Over the last couple of weeks I have heard a number of baccalaureate and commencement addresses. Every one of them had a core message of sincere encouragement. All of these, undeniably compounded with the death of my dear friend and mentor, have caused me to reflect on how important encouragement is for all of us. It has also reminded me of how central encouragement is in our sacred story.
My favorite of such messages is from, most likely, the earliest words in the New Testament from the first letter to the faith community in Thessalonica:
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” 1 Thessaloninas 5:11
The Good News that Jesus preached, even in the harder statements, is always about encouraging us to live into the fullness of who God created us to be. This is the Good News we are called to share as well. I am eternally grateful for the family, friends, and mentors who have consistently proclaimed encouraging Good News.