"Sweet boy, I love your heart. I love your passion for life. I love your inquisitive mind. The fact that you ask questions so much means you have an active mind. I think you will become a Daniel in your generation, giving a picture of faith to many who do not know how to believe. And I am soooo very glad God gave you to me."
Nathan had been cuddling up to me, wearily leaning under my shoulder with big, sad eyes, as he spoke of getting reprimanded for talking too much in a class, again! So often, his bubbling up got him into trouble. But slowly over years, God had given me a view of his heart, beyond his behavior. I knew that deep inside, there was a desire to know answers, to live well, to be a hero--a superman in his lifetime. But God gave him a mama to draw out the hero that was inside, in spite of the little boy that could not control his tongue or his overactive body.
Encouraging and affirming words—words of life, as I like to call them—have the power to give hope, to strengthen others to keep growing in righteousness. And if I, a grown woman, need them to keep me going through hard times, my children need them even more. Positive words act as water and sunshine to our souls to help them grow strong. Yet I have found that very few people really take the time to say those words that all of us, and especially our children, long to hear.
"I love and appreciate you!" "Your friendship means a lot to me!" "I believe in you and in what God is doing in your life!" "You are special to the Lord and to me, and I am praying for you."
Thinking good thoughts about someone doesn't really bless that person. We have to take the initiative actually to say the words—in person, through a card or e-mail, or even through a phone call.
As I look to the life of Jesus, I see that he constantly blessed people with his words. He often spoke encouragement and affirmation directly to those around him or affirmed them before others.
To the woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years, he said, "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well" (Matthew 9:22). Even as his touch healed her body, his encouraging words must have healed her heart.
As Mary of Bethany sat at Jesus' feet, he spoke words to her sister that were obviously intended for her ears as well: "Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luke10:42). How good those words of support must have felt after she had just been scolded for her poor manners and faulty hospitality.
Jesus greeted Nathanael, whom he would call to be his follower, with strong words of praise: "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!" (John 1:47, NKJV).
And at least twice in the Gospels, we see Jesus pronouncing his favor and appreciation to women who anointed him. The first was a woman who was known to be a "sinner" (Luke 7:37-48). Jesus commended her in front of a Pharisee, which must have felt like affirmation indeed. The second time (which is mentioned twice, in Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:9), Jesus commended the woman by promising her deed would be remembered "wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world" (Matthew 26:13). Imagine how she must have felt when he said that! Jesus truly had a spirit of appreciation, affirmation, and encouragement.
Jesus was especially careful to uplift and motivate his disciples with his words. From the beginning he spoke of their potential and their future, saying he would make them "fishers of men," that they would do great wonders, that he loved them just as the Father loved them. And he spoke individual words of blessing they never forgot:
"Blessed are you, Simon Barjona," he said to Peter, "because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it" (Matthew 16:17-18).
Now, imagine how special you would feel if Jesus himself affirmed that your insights were revealed to you by God. And then to have him call you a "rock" and say he would build his church on the solid foundation of your life—what confidence those words would inspire. What an anchor of hope it would provide in times of doubt to remember that Jesus had said such things about you. To have the Son of God choose you to lead his church would indeed be a solid foundation from which to minister. Such words would carry you through many a time of doubt.
Even on the last night before his crucifixion, Jesus built up his disciples with words of love, encouragement, and hope. All through that Upper Room Discourse, he poured out words of love, strength, and comfort that would carry them through the painful days to come and through their lives of service to him.
Words matter! They have the power mysteriously to enter our hearts and minds and lift us beyond the present moment into the presence of God himself. How important it is, then, that we mothers, shepherds of our children's lives and hearts, choose our words to them carefully. We must deliberately aim our words at their hearts in such a way as to give our children hope, faith, strength, and also to point them toward the redeeming love of Christ. We can become the affirming voice of God to our children, just as we become a picture of his redeeming reality in their everyday lives. In this way we extend the gift of grace.
Partially Excerpted from The Ministry of Motherhood, available here at Amazon.