Monday, December 12, 2011

Sis. Rose

 “They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage. So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved. “  Isaiah 41:7 (KJV)

I love reading this verse!  It paints such a beautiful picture of how things ought to be.  Each one helping his neighbor, every one telling the other to “be of good courage” and “you’re doing a good job”.  In the body of Christ, as Christians, we all need to give and receive this kind of affirmation.

Some people just seem to be natural-born encouragers.  Many times, through the years, when I have felt like throwing up my hands and taking a different path, there have been those in my life who have held my feet to the fire and encouraged me to go on.  Tonight, I talked to one of those people, and it blessed me so much.

I still remember when I met her.  I was an 11 year old sixth-grader, self-conscious, timid, and insecure from changing schools for the umpteenth time.  No matter how many times it happened, it never failed to make me extremely anxious to walk into a new school for the very first time.  This was no exception, as I walked into the basement of the church very nervous and filled with dread.  When I got to the classroom, she was one of the first people I met.  She introduced herself to me simply as Sis. Rose.  I didn’t know it, but she would become a role model to me, leave a deep-embedded permanent impression upon my life, and end up being a source of encouragement to me time after time.

She was one of my favorite teachers in school.  She just seemed to understand me, and I think she took extra time trying to make me feel at ease and welcome in my new surroundings.  As I became better acquainted with her, I learned that she had never married, but she had up to that point, devoted her life to missionary work and teaching in Christian Schools.  Just being around her, made me want to live a Christian life.  I drew comfort from her patient and understanding heart time after time.

Sis. Rose was completely sold-out to God, and His Spirit permeated everything about her.  She took a special interest in me as a child, and she encouraged me to be all I could possibly be for God.  We never stayed in one place for two long, so after a period of time, we moved on, and again, I changed schools. 
After I left the school where she taught, I lost touch with her for many years.  I missed her and her Godly influence, but I never forgot it or the lessons she had taught me.  Over the years, she would come to my mind from time to time, and I would recall her many kindnesses.

One day, many years later, I was on campus at Bible College during the annual campmeeting, and unbelievably, I spotted someone who looked familiar!  Could it be?  After all, I knew her in Ohio, and I was then in Florida.  I drew closer to her, and yes, it was her!  My beloved childhood teacher, Sis. Rose!  She instantly remembered me, and we were able to reconnect and catch up.  She had married and sadly, her husband had passed away.  What a blessing to talk to her and find that she was still as in love with Jesus as she was the last time I saw her!  Her steadfastness and consistent Christian life truly motivated me to seek that same stability in my own Christian experience. 

From time to time, we talked on the phone after that, but life was busy and we didn’t connect nearly as often as I would have liked.  During our talks I learned that she had happily remarried a wonderful Christian man.  Recently, I was privileged to talk with someone, not knowing they were a close friend to Sis. Rose.  Somehow her name came up in the conversation, and I learned that my dear teacher’s second husband just recently passed away.  So, tonight I called her with the intentions of encouraging her, offering my condolences, and lifting her spirits.

Her voice sounded as cheerful as ever when she answered the phone, and instead of me encouraging her, she amazingly lifted my spirits!  I told her how sorry I was for her loss, and I found her trust in God to be as unshaken as ever.  No questioning “why me?” or “I don’t understand why God allowed this to happen….again”.  Just sweet resignation to the divine will of God and a genuine interest in what was going on with me and my life.  It ended up that I had so much to tell her; so much has changed since the last time we talked.  She listened, as always, and when I was finished pouring out my heart, she said, “Cheryl, you’re doing the right thing.  You’re doing a good job.”  Oh, how I needed those encouraging words of affirmation!! 

Isn’t that how it should be?  We are all different and we all have various callings and gifts in God’s vineyard.  And just as the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith and he that smoothed with the hammer encouraged him that smote the anvil in today’s passage of Scripture, we should continually encourage one another along life’s way.   

Everyone needs to hear the words “you’re doing a good job”.  As we look at others, we can be so quick to judge and condemn and seek out their faults.  There is some good in everyone, and wouldn’t it be better for us to seek for it and focus on it and encourage them in it?  Rather than zone in on the wrong things we may think they are doing?  And truly we may not see the whole picture or understand what is motivating them, so really we have no right to utter critical, discouraging words.

Sis. Rose truly encouraged me tonight, as she has so many times before.  Right in the midst of her own grief, she found words of comfort for my hurting heart.  She looks beyond her own circumstances to the reality that others have needs, too.  She has been a source of encouragement to me for years.  I told her tonight how much her consistent life for God has meant to me, and she told me how much she appreciated me saying that.  Who knows?  Maybe she needed some encouragement, too. 

I came across this little excerpt written by Ira Sankey that I would like to share.
“During the re­cent war in the Trans­vaal,” said a gen­tle­man at my meet­ing in Ex­e­ter Hall, Lon­don, in 1900, “when the sol­diers go­ing to the front were pass­ing ano­ther bo­dy of sol­diers whom they re­cog­nized, their greet­ings used to be, ‘Four-nine-four, boys; four-nine-four;’ and the sa­lute would in­var­i­a­bly be an­swered with ‘Six fur­ther on, boys; six fur­ther on.’ The sig­nif­i­cance of this was that, in ‘Sac­red Songs and So­los,’ a num­ber of co­pies of the small edi­tion of which had been sent to the front, num­ber 494 was ‘God be with you un­til we meet again;’ and six fur­ther on than 494, or num­ber 500, was ‘Bless­ed As­sur­ance, Je­sus is mine.’”  In order to maintain their morale, the soldiers would call out these encouraging words as they passed one another!

So, how about it, my friend?  Anyone in your life who could gain something from hearing you say “Be of good courage” or “You’re doing a good job”?  How about your child?  How about your spouse?  How about that difficult co-worker?  Sometimes, we can be so caught up in our own problems, we fail to see the need of encouragement in those closest to us.  Instead of focusing on everything they are doing wrong, find something they are doing right, and hammer away at it.  You might be surprised to find out how much they need it!  And who knows, YOU may be the one who ends up being encouraged!

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