I am very encouraged.
You might think this would be normal for me, but I want to say this might be the first time in my life I have been encouraged in quite this way. Because you see, I have found that there is freedom in encouragement, and I never would have thought that.
I've always lived as though encouragement is a burden. When someone says something kind or gracious about your gifts or skills, don't you sometimes feel like that just puts an added weight on your shoulders that now you have to live up to that? I mean, thanks...I think.
And then there's that part in me - and I think it's in all of us - that wonders if someone is telling the truth. There are two sides to that coin. There is the insecure side that wonders if the encouraging word is spoken with the tone of someone congratulating a puppy for pottying on the paper. That condescending, "aww...that's a good try," tone, like the world is applauding you for attempting anything because they never would have expected it from you and want to build your confidence in yourself even if, heaven forbid, you really aren't that great. And then there's the false humility side that knows you're sitting on a tremendous gift and isn't quite sure what to make of the compliment.
Either way, it's weird to be on the receiving end. For the longest time, I'll admit - I never even said thank you. I just hung my head and kind of shuffled away. Compliments and encouragement had that heavy feeling for me and they always made a million thoughts run through my head, few if any of them positive.
But here lately, the people around me - friends, family, church, life - places I would expect and those I wouldn't, have been tremendously encouraging. And I'm learning to take it. With honest humility and not in a prideful or arrogant way. In a way that acknowledges quietly to myself, and with a simple thank you aloud, the presence of God in my life. It started a few weeks ago, but it really hit me this past few days as people have had wonderful words for me.
Then when I wasn't really thinking about it, it hit me. I wasn't analyzing this encouragement. I wasn't rolling it around in my head. It simply was, and it lightened my spirit. It filled me with joy. It put a smile on my face.
What was the difference?
The truth. Authenticity. For the first time in my life, I have enough self-awareness to understand that what people are speaking about (and speaking to) is something real in me. It is something actual and honest and God-given. Nothing hiding behind the shadows. Nothing impure or fraud-laden. God has been so gracious to me in the recent months and years, extending to me an invitation to live authentically. From that first moment He touched that fake place in my heart and shattered it, I knew what my life had been missing. It was this. And now, I'm tapping into that. And I don't feel like I'm hiding any more. I don't feel like I'm jumping from place to place, living elusive, trying to prove myself, or trying to find "it." I just am. I am, in glory and in tatters, all He has created me to be.
So that's what it was that changed encouragement from a burden to a blessing for me. From words I would dwell on and ruminate over until they were excruciating into words that just sink into my heart and let me breathe. It's authenticity. It is living in a way that knows that what this world is speaking to, what I am showing, what I am living, and how I am loving...is real. To its absolute depths. Fully.
Have you found encouragement to be sometimes, well, discouraging? Why do you think that is in your life? Are you perhaps living in the shadows and knowing those words speak to something less than the whole you?