If You Love, You Must Encourage
“Uncle B, these are the best pancakes I’ve ever had.” Austin, who is my adorable nephew, said these words to me back in November when he stayed the night at my house. This is a very bold statement I thought, even from a five-year-old. Now I was a little skeptical as I made these pancakes from a box, though I did take the time to add some chocolate chips to them because, well, someone has to be the fun uncle! I would also like to add that these were made at 6:00 a.m. and if you have children you know the humor behind that. Anyway, you can imagine my amazement then when I went to San Antonio to visit Austin and his family for Christmas and he repeated the statement as we were eating breakfast one morning. “Uncle B makes the best pancakes ever, they are soooo good.” You would have thought Steph Curry just complimented my shooting ability. I was on cloud nine. Austin has eaten a lot of pancakes in his five years and mine are the best, perhaps I’m in the wrong line of work I thought.
When I really reflected back to this I thought this little boy just gave an incredible demonstration of the value of encouragement. It’s a testimony to the influence of his amazing parents and grandparents but it’s also powerful to see someone this young realize it’s correlation to love. Pastor Doug Shada used to say his mission was to be the cheerleader without the pom poms. He too knew better than anyone that encouragement is way more about being there for that person than about being right, keeping score, or convenience. Sounds kind of like the love you want to have huh? When we verbalize our appreciation for someone’s abilities, love, or even to help encourage them when they fall, it helps move that person forward. It’s amazing what a simple, “I’m thinking of you” can do for someone. In the Bible, you will find all types of stories of the power of encouragement. One that I enjoy is in the book of Joshua. After Moses died his successor is Joshua who is fit for the job but is overwhelmed by the challenges and is questioning his abilities. In a moment with God he is told, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Austin helped me to remember that there is nothing like someone who makes you feel valued. I know I’m at my best as a person when I take the time to appreciate someone’s effort, help someone laugh/smile when it’s been a hard day or pass along a positive affirmation. I think I do that the best when I remember that it’s not about me. Isn’t it amazing to think about what it must have been like for Joshua to hear God basically saying “I’m thinking of you.” Just like it was powerful for a five-year-old to tell me “you make the best pancakes.”
If You Care, You Follow Through
Sometime this summer I received a text from my mom with a question. Usually my mom follows a question with about 12 other questions, but in this case, it was simply “Did you send Austin his Kris Bryant shirt yet? “He said we need to check the mail.” Now the problem was I didn’t know I was supposed to send him a Kris Bryant shirt. Turns out a few days earlier when we were Face Timing I casually mentioned something about getting him a Kris Bryant shirt since he is a big Chicago Cubs fan. Now he was asking my mom who was in Texas watching him, to check the mail about three times a day because Uncle B said he was getting a t-shirt. He simply heard a promise and was expecting me to deliver. Thanks to Amazon Prime he received that Kris Bryant shirt two days later and I learned a very valuable lesson. If you love you follow through.
When you mention you are going to do something with a child, however casually and vaguely you make it, you will be expected to follow through. And rightfully so! Whether that’s taking them to the trampoline park or that they could stay up late if they ate all their dinner, your promises mean little, your follow through means everything. This has been something that’s been on my mind a lot lately. You see we can’t carry a message well if we don’t live it first. Sta’nisha, a friend of mine brought up a powerful point one time that basically asked this question. “How many people that see you going through something hard and say, I’ll be praying for you, actually get down on their knees and have a conversation with God about you?” There’s likely a lot of truth in that. When we say, “I’ll get that taken care of for you or “I will be there for that” it’s very easy to say it with great intent. Then what happens, life gets in the way. The kids need to be picked up, homework has to be done, someone is inconsiderate of your feelings and it becomes inconvenient. We must always remember, however, that our presence matters. If I had to guess I’d say that the young ladies I have coached remember my follow through or lack of it more than anything else. I’m guessing many other people throughout my life would say the same thing. That’s what I have found to be really amazing about Jesus, His follow through was tremendous. We only need to go over his crucifixion and resurrection to see all we need to believe His love for us. I’d like to go back to Pastor Doug. One thing he also used to say was “our job is to make God look good.” He knew what we all know but can easily take for granted, you don’t bring glory to God with intent, you make God look good with follow through.
If You Love, You Are Available
With Austin living in San Antonio and myself in Kearney, Nebraska when we are together it’s usually for a couple of days at a time. Therefore I feel like there are times when Austin’s parents almost feel bad for me and try to give me a break. Just in the fact that when you’re with Austin he wants to be with you. Not so much sitting on the couch watching TV together but playing baseball, basketball, riding our scooters/bicycles/longboards around the block, Aliens & Zombies, Hungry Hippos (I could go on). “Uncle B let’s go outside and play basketball.” “What are you doing, can I help?” There’s no one foot in type stuff with him. Do you see where I’m going with this?!
The thing is I completely understand it. I can’t think of a time when I was pursuing a woman that I really liked and saw a future with where I was going, “I enjoy being around you but let’s not spend too much time together.” There are sometimes when it may not be convenient sure. Remember when I mentioned making those chocolate chip pancakes at 6:00 a.m.? Think about what the alternative would be. It would have to be something to fulfill self like sleep, free time, etc. That’s why I always try to be up for whatever he dreams and thinks up. I always volunteer to give him his nightly bath. Inevitably Austin will somehow find ways to splash me with water and then he gives me the privilege of picking out his pajamas and dressing him.. I remember times when he was younger and I was an uncle that was much less available to him. Because of that, he was much less comfortable with me and he wanted someone else to give him a bath.
It is for these reasons that those bath time moments are ones I will always hold tremendously close to my heart Not only because of my availability in this but Austin being available for me. He could easily ask someone else to give him a bath or play basketball with him but instead, he chose me. Much like after John the Baptist was unjustly killed. Jesus had just lost a close friend and went to be alone to grieve. What He didn’t plan on was 5,000 people following Him. So what did Jesus do? Instead of being angry because of the inconvenience He felt compassion for them and appreciated that they wanted to be close to Him. So Jesus made Himself available to them. Then He took five loaves of bread and two fish and fed all 5,000 with plenty of leftovers for them to take home. When you translate miracle it is often noted as a sign. Therefore when you look deeper you see that the miracle of feeding the 5,000 it was a “sign” both in God’s almighty power and Jesus’s love for people. It wasn’t about Jesus and what He wanted, it was about letting people see God through the way Jesus loved them.
I Love You Too
Before Austin goes to bed each night he always goes around and gives a hug and “love you” to all family members. I realize that when I say “I love you too” that makes me accountable for my love for him. It means that I am making a promise to encourage and make him feel valued, to follow through with my words and promises and make sure I am available with my time. Just like he does with me and so many others. I’d like to think this isn’t just reserved for five-year-old nephews, but brothers, sisters, moms, dads, grandparents, close friends, girlfriends, boyfriends, wives, husbands, etc. Granted I know all those relationships are different in ways and this does take a lot of time. I also know I’m guilty of struggling in all these areas myself. I just want to share how Austin has taught me that when you say “I love you too” to someone, there are certain commitments that come with it. And remember chocolate chip pancakes are always a better decision than plain pancakes!