I once spent a summer during college helping groups of high school students grow in their faith. A classmate and I spent time getting to know these students intimately, entering into their joys and their sorrows, and sharing our own, hoping to encourage them. By the end of our time together, it often felt as if we’d known one another for years, and saying goodbye was sad. However, there was something we did at the end of each session that sweetened our parting: we left in love.
Now, I don’t just mean that we hugged and told each other how much we’d enjoyed spending time together. Though we did that, we also did something far more personal and challenging. Sitting in a circle, we took turns speaking intimate, truthfully, and positively about one another. Whether we’d hit it off and became fast friends, or whether we’d struggled to overcome our differences, we took sacred time to put into words the good we saw in one another. We called this time “affirmation.”
I spent that summer helping teens alongside a dear friend of mine named Sarah. Sarah, possesses a giving heart, one that she is willing to let break if necessary, because of her deep love for others. And that summer, Sarah decided we should take affirmations a bit further. Rather than reserving this special time for our teens at the end of each session, Sarah thought that we should live our lives in constant, intentional states of affirmation. And so, any time Sarah noticed something beautiful in another person, she told them, showing no fear of rejection or being misunderstood. Sarah’s motto was that “people should know” [the good we recognize within them.]
I have always admired this about my dear friend, and her way of life has been heavy on my mind lately. For, I found myself desiring to intimately and truthfully affirm three different people this week. I have felt called to write a letter of affirmation and encouragement to someone who carried me when I was weak, and who now themselves needs to be carried. I have felt called to write a letter of affirmation and remembrance to a dear friend who is moving away and beginning a new chapter in her life. And I have felt called to write a letter of affirmation and thanks to someone whose ministry and life have deeply impacted my faith.
Even though I felt called to express my feelings to these people this week, I admittedly still wasted time living in fear. I felt unable to find the right words and worried about saying the wrong thing. But, in the back of my mind, I kept hearing Sarah’s simple reminder: “people should know.” And how I know this to be true! For when I was undergoing treatment for cancer, when I was scared out of my mind and sicker than I’ve ever been, I so treasured the affirming words of those who reached out to me. Even when the words were clumsy, I still treasured them just the same. And every word that was spoken to me, out of love, whether it was the “right” word or not, strengthened me. How grateful I am for those who reached out to me instead of living in fear, silenced by worry that they might not have the perfect words. I doubt that many of those who reached out to me have any idea how much their words lifted my spirits and impacted my heart.
And so, last night, I finally wrote to the third person who had been on my heart this week. I don’t know if I expressed myself clearly, or how this person will respond to my words. But I do know that it was right to write my note of affirmation, because people should know.
My prayer for you today is that you find the courage to affirm those in your life. Using words, even when you fear they aren’t the “right” ones, affirm the good you see in others. Love and strengthen those around you, as Christ loves and strengthens us. And if there is someone you’ve been thinking about affirming through love, don’t waste time living in fear. Be brave and tell them. For, you never know the impact your words might have!
Thank you for joining me on my 31 day challenge!
Day 1: Be Not Afraid
Day 2: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Day 3 Keeping a Faithful Heart in Light of Suffering
Day 4: Facing Fears with Laughter
Day 5: Listening to My Heart
Day 6: Daring to Love Myself in Order to Love Others
Day 7: Opening Up My Idea of a Remarkable Life
Day 8: Giving Voice to My Fears
Day 9: Being a Bearer of Joy
Day 10 & 11: Give Everything
Day 12: Switching My Focus
Day 13: Reaching Out
Day 14 & 15: Letting Go
Day 16: Giving Voice to My Dreams
Day 17: Putting Fear into Action
Day 18: Clear Eyes, Full Heart
Day 19: Strength, Wisdom, Courage, and Clarity
Day 20-22: Facing the End of Things
Day 23: Showing Delight in Others
Day 24: Embracing the Dawn
Day 25: Saying No and Letting Go of the Guilt
Day 26: Find Love, then Give it All Away
Day 27: Doing What I Have to Do
Day 28: Snow in October