Learning through Life

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Hampshire, United Kingdom
I love how our day-to-day life can teach us lessons to help us understand our past, challenge our today, and inspire our future. We can learn through experiences, situations, conversations, songs, books, nature ... the list is endless! Live with eyes ready to see, ears ready to hear and a heart ready to be touched.

Monday, 13 February 2012

The one with the Encouragement



Wisdom for Women in Leadership

During January, Sophia Network ran a series on Encouragement and Empowerment, in which various women were invited to share how they have experienced empowerment in their lives and ministry. 


I was privileged to be asked to share my experience:


'Throughout my time in Christian ministry, I am thankful to have received encouragement in many different guises; from a casual pat on the back accompanying a ‘well done’; to kind words written in a card; through to more intentional mentoring conversations in which various abilities were identified and encouraged.   All have been appreciated, and no doubt have had a positive impact on my personal development and ministry.   To attempt to individually name and thank all the encouragers in my life would be an impossible task, so I offer a collective ‘thank you’ with sincerity here.
The impact of a simple word of encouragement should not be underestimated; it can literally be life changing.  Sadly, the opposite can also be true.  A word or a look that discourages can hinder development, and unless corrected, could potentially snuff it out altogether. 
The phrase ‘it’s not your thing’ spoken to me after I (very nervously) gave a short testimony one Sunday morning became ingrained in my mind, resulting in a self-belief that I had no gifting or ability to speak to adults in a public setting at all.  From then on, although happy to speak in front of young people, I avoided speaking to adults whenever possible.  After all, it wasn’t my thing!
Since then, many encouraging words have been given that have helped me to loosen the hold that phrase seemed to have over me.  However, one incident in particular stands out as having a significant impact on my development, and actually, I think on my life as a whole.
We would like you to preach at our wedding’.
Dan and Gemma, who both served on the youth team with me, were due to get married and wanted me to preach at their wedding ceremony.  They must be joking?!  I can’t speak in front of adults. But they were absolutely serious. 
This conversation impacted me tremendously, because they demonstrated a belief in my ability, not only in theory, but also in practice.  If they trusted me in this way, then perhaps I could do it after all?  Despite being petrified, I did speak at their wedding, and I am thankful for the opportunity to do so - what an honour.
Encouraging words are great, but when they are accompanied by a demonstration of trust, I believe something far greater is experienced.  This is true empowerment. 
Jesus didn’t just speak of his love for us, he demonstrated it on the cross.   Likewise, Dan and Gemma didn’t only say I had the ability to speak, they demonstrated it by entrusting me to do so.   This spoke volumes. 
Who is God asking you to encourage in theory and in practice?'

I found the series both encouraging and challenging as it forced me to consider how intentional and effective I am as an encourager.   Why don't you click on the links and read the series? 
 



(This post was first posted on Sophia Network on the 28th Jan 2012)

4 comments:

  1. Important words, Jo -- thanks for the reminder. Encouragement and discouragement are each incredibly powerful... I was reminded of a time last summer when I was watching my 5-year-old participate in a Pee Wee Sports Camp. She was trying to be so careful about kicking her soccer ball in a straight line that she wasn't making very speedy progress down the field, and I heard another parent mutter, "well, it isn't for everyone." Thank heavens she didn't hear, but it certainly left me seething. On the other hand, she has absorbed the many comments others have made about her long, "piano-playing" fingers and asked for lessons last summer, learning quickly and with tremendous enthusiasm. Our words have great power. It's a good reminder to be intentional what comes of out our mouths. (Also, I bet my kid could trounce that guy's at ballet, but that's me being uncharitable now... :-) )

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