The Power of Affirmation
As we approach Cooper’s 2nd birthday, I might be getting a bit sentimental thinking “way back when……..”
When we brought Cooper home from the hospital, we were amazingly at peace. I thought we’d be nervous wrecks. I thought we’d be overwhelmed, and there were moments of that for sure, but we kind of fell into place as parents with a strange sense of peace — well, at first.
As the days went by I can remember discovering that there would be both times of great ease and times where there would be questions we simply could not answer. As the weeks went on, I can remember being confused more than settled. Early in mommy-dom, the greatest thing you could ever have said to me was, “Sara, you’re going a good job,” or, “Sara, you’re a good mom.” I confess that now as we enter toddlerdom I might need those words even more.
I’m 3.5 years into ministry — a journey that began a long time ago — and there are days that I feel oddly at peace — as though the Holy Spirit is drifting in and out of all that happens and all that I do, and I am comfortably confident that I’m not screwing up. Then there are days that I can’t win for losing (though, generally I’m my own worst critic), and I’d do anything for a pat on the back and a word of encouragement.
A few weeks ago, Craig and I had lunch with our peer group in Jackson. We do this once a month. It’s valuable and almost always just what I need. I was overwhelmed all through lunch because, of course, I wasn’t just eating and checking in — I was also chasing Cooper and trying to keep him happy. It was getting to be exhausting and I’m sure I was only hearing half the stories going around the table. I ate my food so fast I couldn’t taste it (which was a shame because we were eating at Panera and I love Panera). After 2 hours we changed Cooper’s diaper and prepped to leave.
As we were loading the tired toddler in the car and taking a deep breath before we got in the car ourselves and drove the little-over-an-hour home, a peer of ours (who’s been in ministry for many years), pulled alongside us in his car and said with great assurance, “I just want you to know, y’all are doing a great job.” It wasn’t in some cheery, make-you-feel-good way. It was truthful and honest and assuring. It wasn’t an ego-stroke. It was a third-party perspective we didn’t have and I knew that it encompassed all we are — mom, dad, pastor, student, peer, friend….
The fact is, we’ve not been down every road. I could have twice as many degrees and not be prepared for everything that comes my way. There are incredible and intelligent folks who’ve gone before us — some paving smooth roads and some knocking holes in the pavement. Words of encouragement, advice, care, or prayer are the most incredible gifts our predecessors can give us. The fact is, words stay with us — they visit us in our sleep even, and for years to come they either deepen wounds or encourage us along.
Whether you’re the best parent or most-skilled pastor, a district superintendent, bishop, or professor, you have an incredible power — a gift — that you can share with us along the way. There will be times when we’re at peace and trucking along just fine and there will be (more often) times when we’re digging through a trench confused, scared, and ready to throw in the towel. In either of those times offer that small piece (peace) of yourself to someone else. We promise to pass it along when it’s our turn. They are words that will not fall on deaf ears.