Wednesday, August 15, 2007

“E” is for Encouragement: “Grace Happening People” Know and Emulate the Encouraging Son of God

This is the tenth installment of a twelve-week summer series based on the anagram “GRACE HAPPENS,” each letter representing a quality that equips us to be “Grace Happening People.”

My long time friend, Ken Knipp, recently shared with me a priceless example of encouragement from his life. One winter, Ken’s mom accompanied his family to Colorado to serve as baby sitter for their youngest child, Janae, so Ken and Vickie and their sons, Tim and Gabe, could ski. Ken managed to talk his mom into taking a skiing lesson and she was quite surprised and pleased when she mastered the bunny hill. Ken took things one step further and said,

Mom, would you like to go up the ski lift with us?”

“Yes, I think I would like that,” his mom replied.

And so it was that Ken and his mother and sons were soon aloft in the ski lift.

“Oh! I’m not sure this was a very good idea,” exclaimed Mom, several times in a voice increasingly edged with apprehension. Approaching the landing, she despairingly declared, “Oh. I KNOW this wasn’t a good idea!”

Stepping out of the chair onto the snow, she fell several times and Ken patiently helped her up. He was determined to see that his mom experience and enjoy the thrill of skiing. Surmising that their dad’s mission could be time-intensive, Tim and Gabe skied off with a cheery, “See ya at the bottom!”

“Mom, I’m going to ski you down the hill,” Ken said in his calm, reassuring voice. “We’ll take the green trail—the slope is no different than what you have already experienced on the bunny hill.”

Although Mom wasn’t thrilled with the idea, she allowed her son to stand behind her, his skis planted on either side of her skis, his arms firmly but gently wrapped around her waist. Very s-l-o-w-l-y and deliberately, Ken zigzagged down the hill, his mom gasping and prayerfully punctuating the turns as they temporarily picked up speed.

“Oh God, protect us!”

“Oh, dear Lord!”

“Mom, you’ve taken care of me for years, now let me take care of you. Just relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery.”

Joyce Knipp was 65 at the time—and continued to enjoy additional skiing outings. You go, girl!

On the ski slopes of life, I sometimes feel like a bunny hill skier whose been lofted to the top of the Rocky Mountains and left there to fend for myself. At such times, I cry, “I can’t do this! It’s just too hard!” My heart pounding in my chest, I teeter on trembling legs of rubber, immobilized. The slippery slopes of life’s dilemmas often appear too high, too rugged and treacherous, too overwhelming and scary.

In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee found themselves teetering on one of life’s overwhelming slopes:

“I can't do this Sam,” Frodo lamented to his friend.

“I know,” said Sam wistfully. “It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo… Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer… Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
“What are we holding on to Sam?” Frodo queried his encouraging traveling companion.

Excellent question, Mr. Frodo! Rather that holding on to “something,” I think we need to lean into the guiding arms of God’s Son and accept his firm hold on us—just as Ken’s mom accepted her son’s encouraging embrace. We may not be the most graceful, skillful skiers on the slopes of life, but the embrace of God’s grace will see us safely through the twists and turns.

Our Lord Jesus Christ… loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope. 2 Thessalonians 2:16

Be eternally encouraged—and offer encouragement to those around you.

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