September 7, 2016

Grab a Face, Encourage a Heart

One of the best things we can do for our friendships, whether fledging or lifelong, is to become cheerleaders for other women.

Don't we all crave a cheerleader friend? Absolutely! We don't want cotton-candy flattery or even the niceties about our appearance or choice of couch pillows, nor do we want silent cheerleaders who think but don't speak words of encouragement. We want a friend of the super athletic cheerleader variety, who exerts enthusiasm and energy in exhorting us on, even as they do their own faith-thing at our side. These kind of friends are rare, and we can't guarantee we'll have a friend like that. But we certainly can be that kind of friend to others.

I tell you what: being a cheerleader for other women can be awkward. I know because I am the queen of awkwardness and, frankly, I don't care. I see too many women standing on the sidelines of life feeling like a failure when, in fact, they are walking by faith and adorning themselves with the glorious beauty of good works. They need to know that God's fingerprints are all over them! 
A few years ago, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness at how God was using someone in my life to bring Him glory. However, I knew my friend didn't see it quite as clearly as I did. I made a bee-line for my friend after church one Sunday and, as I spoke what I hoped were words of encouragement and exhortation, I grabbed my friend's face as a mother would her child when she wanted her full attention. I don't know what came over me to do that, other than I felt so strongly that my friend needed to know what was in my heart. It was absolutely a God moment, but it was also absolutely awkward. I texted later: "Sorry about grabbing your face."

But I'm kind of not sorry. We need to be the type of women who grab faces. In other words, however awkward it is, we need to be intentional to encourage, celebrate, champion, exhort, and push other women forward as they seek to live by faith and use their gifts for God. Especially in our friendships, because that's where we have access to the inner struggle women go through with fear and insecurity.

Being cheerleaders for other women can not only be awkward, but it can also be difficult. Seeing how God is using another woman, sometimes visibly and powerfully, can challenge our own inadequacies and feelings of invisibility. Our self-centered hearts don't always want to celebrate another's successes. In addition, sometimes when we see how another woman lives her life differently from how we live ours, we're prone to think her choices are the exact prescription she would give us. We see her through the filter of our mom guilt or our frustrations with our own life or the unmet desires we have. These filters, in my opinion, are the greatest hindrances to our friendships, because we erroneously believe that she--fill in the blank with who your "she" is--couldn't possibly understand, relate, or have compassion toward us. We compete with one another and make assumptions rather than locking arms with one another.

These are subtle schemes of the enemy, because God's grace allows for our differences in gifts and choices. God says love--love Him and love people--and there are a million and one right and good ways to obey those commands. If we are Christians, every single one of us is called to walk by faith. Some women among us are trying to walk by faith well in their singleness, some in a difficult marriage, some in parenting special needs kids, some in vocational ministry, some in a job, some in painful and unwanted circumstances. We can be a distinctly Christian friend by seeking, in word and deed, to spur one another on toward faith, love, and good deeds.

Who in your life needs a good face-grab today? Who needs a biblical rah-rah-sis-boom-bah? Kill your fleshly drive toward comparison and competition and go be their cheerleader today. The kingdom of God (and your heart) will be better for it.