Just show up
It takes courage to be an encourager. It takes humility to receive an encourager.
I'm drawn to a special man in Scripture who God used to show us how it’s done, and his name was Barnabas.
Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the power of this lesser-mentioned man of God. Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Saul … and Barnabas. We first meet Barnabas in an act of generosity when he sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles. His convictions led to action, sacrificial giving. He even had a nickname – Barnabas, son of encouragement. No surprise, I suppose, that the Holy Spirit sent him alongside Paul on the first missionary journey.
My New Living Translation biography says this about the importance of Barnabas to our understanding of Truth:
“Barnabas was drawn to people he could encourage, and he was a great help to those around him. It is delightful that wherever Barnabas encouraged Christians, non-Christians flocked to become believers!
Barnabas’ actions were crucial to the early church. In a way, we can thank him for most of the New Testament. God used his relationship with Paul at one point, and with Mark at another, to keep these two men going when either might have failed. Barnabas did wonders with encouragement!”
God has also sent people to walk alongside me in the most sacrificial ways during exciting challenges and painful seasons in my life. Oh, what gifts they have been to me – not to take the place of God Himself, but to help me look up as they held my hand and listened to my heart.
I long to become an encourager myself. To be brave enough to take the first step, and faithful enough to stay – however long the journey may be. Often I fall short, selfishly counting the cost and deciding to guard rather than invest.
I take comfort in knowing Barnabas wasn’t perfect in his journey either. Galatians 2:12-13 describes a confrontation he had with Peter, and being led astray by the hypocrisy of some of the Jewish Christians.
But is lack of perfection a reason not to come alongside? Is falling short a viable excuse not to love – in any way? No, for that God throws the door wide open to confession, forgiveness and grace. I speak the words to myself, pointing the finger at my own excuse-making heart.
So how do I become a better encourager? I grant myself this truth – it will be a life-long lesson, and I remind myself that sometimes truths learned softly come from intentional learning.
So I turn my chair to my generous library and peruse my books. I stop suddenly at one I’ve read before but which invites another reading:
Just Show Up: the Dance of Walking through Suffering Together by Kara Tippetts and Jill Lynn Buteyn.
Just show up.
And I pull the book off the shelf quietly asking myself again: Can it really be that easy?
I know this author. Kara Tippetts is the precious young woman who married my nephew, Jason. They loved people in the biggest kind of way, had four children, planted a new church in Colorado Springs... and then met “hard,” as Kara calls it.
Kara was diagnosed with cancer and after a vulnerable, pain-filled battle, she died, leaving this earth with the gift of her blog (mundanefaithfulness.com) and three books.
First she wrote The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard, This second book, Just Show Up, she wrote as she entered hospice care. Her third book, And It Was Beautiful: Celebrating Life in the Midst of the Long Good-bye, was released after Kara moved on to the “land of no more tears.”
Just Show Up. I wonder if that was also Barnabas’ life message. In the Introduction, Kara writes in part:
“Showing up for another says, ‘I see you. Your pain is known, and though I cannot make it better, I’m here and that’s what matters.’
Showing up for another, extending yourself for another, is always costly. Always...When we show up for one another, we invade each other in love and become witness to the truth that trials and sickness and pain are not the whole story. There’s more, so much more.
We can remind one another that our lives are not a mistake. And, most importantly that we are loved with an everlasting love.”
I pray the Lord would grace me with courage to show up. I pray He would reveal any lie that makes me think staying away is a better choice.
And I pray the Lord would grant me the humility to invite others to show up for me – to enter my pain and failure and uncertainty because those seasons will come, and I long to know my heart will choose this: “the dance of walking through suffering together.”
I pray the Lord would make me a Barnabas and keep my heart soft to the Barnabas He will bring when I need the hand of an encourager.
Sitting still: pull up a chair
In this quiet moment of stillness, you might thank the Lord for an encourager He has brought into your life – now or in the past. And then pause to listen for His gentle whisper – perhaps the name of someone who needs your gift of simply showing up today.