"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another with love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near." Hebrews 10: 23-25
I remember many years ago hearing a talk from a prominent speaker who said, "I will do anything to put myself in the company of people who make me want to love God more, to be more excellent, to set a standard of excellence in my life--to live up to my potential as a believer. But I will also do whatever I can to avoid those who are drainers--those who steal my joy, who keep me from wanting to grow in my faith, who complain and criticize other people, who tempt me to discouragement."
I realized that this was, for me, a wise principle, in that, there are not many people whose lives really encourage me to press on, to walk in the presence of the Lord, to love graciously and unconditionally and to believe God with all my heart. But there were certain people, that when I was with them, I felt more filled up--more ready to face life again, to finish well, to trust God.
My friend, Lynn, is one of my ministry friends. I have said that if you want the best kind of friend, find someone you can do ministry with--someone who loves God and wants to make a difference in the world--and in the midst of working together, praying, serving people, you both grow together in memory making, faith, accountability and the strings of your heart are knit together by the Holy Spirit as you invest together in Kingdom work.
I do have many wonderful people in my life, but there are a handful who are close to me, who really pursue me--to take the initiative to engage in my heart's issues and who also take initiative to share with me what they have been learning and who pray with me or to send me an email one more time to tell me they love me or appreciate what I have written. These are investors in my life. In other words, they do not just live, love and accept me, but they invest in my lifes each time we are together--they pursue me and build me up, without me have to ask.
It is not an equal relationship--a tit for tat sort of thing, Instead it is one in which we commit to being friends for life--whatever the season holds. Often, my sweet friends give far more to me than I do to them because I have such a crazy life, but they choose to understand my limitations--and I make a concerted effort to invest in these friends, too, --to build up, to give life, to bring the fragrance of Christ to the moment that might fit their need..
Choosing to pursue is an act of obedience. Taking responsibility to encourage and to give life-giving words and to redeem is one of the best reflections of the reality of Christ in our lives--God was always initiating--creating a garden where the life of Adam and Eve could thrive and be blessed; providing clothes after they had sinned, giving them a history of a people beloved by God, providing manna and quail, giving words of encouragement, giving fish and loaves when noticing personal needs, promises of hope, pursued by Him and ultimately the final sacrifice--becoming, humbly, a man to serve and love and prepare meals and wash feet and redeem.
And so because we have felt the healing grace of His touch, deeply in the hidden places, and been transformed by His heart, we in turn, after knowing , we pursue those He would touch through us.
Initiative--that aspect that says, "I will pursue you--I will care for you--I will encourage you." When we pursue our children, our husband, our friends and those needy in our lives, we may be preserving them from giving up, from despair, from condemnation--we may help them to change their destiny--to give them the courage to hold fast their hope--to end well--to wait long enough for God to show His grace.
It is why I pursue my children--to have one on one dates, alone with them, with the intention of giving them words of life--emails--"I am praying for you today. I am so proud of you. I believe in you. You make me smile." Leaving notes on their bed. Telling them "thank you" for who they are--just as God made them--bringing a surprise flower or chocolate or cup of tea.
It is why I call my husband most days after lunch--not to bother him, but to let him know someone in the world is thinking of him and loves him and prays for him. It is why I travel all over the world, if necessary, to be with those special friends, who I have made a commitment to--to be devoted to--all of my life.
It is why I hold mom's meetings in my home; organize conferences for sweet moms sacrificing their lives, organize teas or lunches in my home, or meet for coffee.
Most of the time, I cannot see that these beloved want me to pursue them, often it seems just the opposite--especially with hormonal teens and preteens. And even with disgruntled adults. But, if I could see the cries of their inner heart, "I am discouraged, frustrated, feel inadequate, insecure, angry, overwhelmed," I would know that a supernatural touch of unconditional love, words of life, hope held out before them, is just what they need--and we become the hands, words and messages from God to them.
Each of us has time and ability--but we must be stewards of this time and the capacity we have to bring love and encouragement and words of life to all God brings our way. In loving and pondering Christ, He becomes our model--while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us--he didn't wait until we were worthy, or asked him to die--he just initiated His love, because He knew that while we were separated from Him, we would be lost forever.
Initiating love is the love in our hearts that compels us--pushes us to reach out. It is why some have such an impact in the world, they are compelled by love and generosity of spirit--but it comes from the author of it all--Jesus who compels and and brings resurrection life after the winters of seeming death.
And so, He sends us to initiate, to find those who need the love and life of Christ, before they even ask. We don't initiate because we feel like it--we may be weary, discouraged ourselves. But we do it out of obedience, because He did it--and it is His supernatural grace that drives us to give of ourselves to others.
But in the end, we are the ones who are blessed--He encourages us--we see how wonderful He was by taking the initiative--we appreciate His unconditional love. We also are blessed in the midst with wonderful friendships and we are reminded how very grateful we are to have tasted of His initiating grace.
Sometimes, after all these years, I can from time to time become weary of traveling or leading groups as I feel a little of my age pressing in and I so enjoy the peace of stillness and beauty in staying home! Yet, when I step out one more time, I am almost always blessed and encouraged. This week, I was so very blessed by the moms who took the time to come to my home-in their fellowship, I was awed and greatly humbled and encouraged. The sincerity and depths of their hearts, the generosity of their prayers and encouragement of one to another--filled my own heart.
So, again, as I plan my days, I ponder, "Are there those who are longing for His touch of comfort, encouragement, grace that I have so abundantly received? One in whose life I may speak light?"