What I need to hear (encouragement)

I’m sitting in the gym, writing to the rat-a-tat-tat percussion of dribbling and squeaky shoes on the gym floor. My daughter’s basketball team is practicing, which for eight-year-olds involves as much bouncing on toes and giggling as passing and shooting. I have plenty of time to people watch.

My attention wanders to a slightly older girl on the next court. She’s at that awkward tween age: arms and legs growing too fast, complexion spotty, hair overdue for a haircut. I’ve seen her before: when her teammates arrive, she will sit on the bleachers, unsure where she fits in. She could be me as a sixth grader.

Right now, her dad is practicing with her, giving her a few pointers on how to shoot the ball. “Aim for the box on the backboard,” he says, demonstrating. He’s not being Tiger Dad or Helicopter Parent; he’s encouraging and kind.

I want to tell her that she’s lucky. Pay attention to your dad, I imagine telling her. He’s showing you how to shoot the ball, but he’s also saying that you’re important to him. That he cares enough to spend time with you, pay attention to you, and he’s showing you how a real man treats a lady. Long after you forget your cool teammates, long after you forget this particular game and practice, you’ll remember how Dad showed you love.

I wander to the concession stand. There’s a guy standing in line, waiting to place his order. His nose is permanently smushed to one side; he hangs his head. When we make eye contact, he looks away, as if embarrassed. I wonder if there’s a connection between his nose and his downward gaze. And because I’m a novelist and can’t help it, I come up with scenarios of what his life is like. Maybe there’s a girl he really likes, but he’s scared to ask her out because she’s completely gorgeous and completely out of his league. Or so he thinks.

Ask her out anyway, I imagine saying. You’ve got a 50/50 chance of going out if you ask, but a 100% chance of not going out if you don’t.

Now I realize what I’m doing. I’m saying these things, not because this young girl and teen boy need to hear them, but because I need to remind myself:

You’re blessed if someone genuinely loves you, not if you wear cool clothes and have a perfect body and make effortless small talk.

You take a risk in loving another person, but love, true love, is worth that risk.

You may feel awkward and insignificant, but you’re worth knowing. You are significant.    

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16 thoughts on “What I need to hear (encouragement)

  1. “You’ve got a 50/50 chance of going out if you ask, but a 100% chance of not going out if you don’t.” That was my philosophy back in my dating days, Laura!

    And you’re right about encouragement. We all need it. Over the past few years, God has worked in me to understand this more and more. He’s been opening my eyes to see how I can encourage others, and to take the time and effort to say the encouraging words or send the encouraging emails or even post the encouraging comment.

    I think sometimes people don’t get it, though, especially non-believers. I get the impresison some of them think I’m weird or have an ulterior motive. I let them think that. If the opportunity arises I also let them know that I do this because I belong to One who gives me true hope, and that is the most encouraging thing of all.

    Great post, Laura. Thanks for getting me thinking about all this.

    Tim

    P.S. Kim at Kingdom Civics just put up a guest piece I did for her on retail marketing, data mining, and being stalked by Satan: http://kingdomcivics.com/2012/02/20/guest-post-being-targeted/. She’s got a great site and I know she’d be encouraged by a visit to check it out.

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    1. THanks for the link to your post, Tim. Sounds interesting.

      I think I heard the 50/50 quote from my nutritionist when I was in college, back when he was treating me for anorexia. I have no idea why I was talking to him about dating!

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      1. Interesting to hear the connection between that quote and the context where you heard it, because Rachel Stone just posted today at her Eat with Joy blog a guest piece I did on God’s grace and taste buds: http://eatwithjoy.org/2012/02/24/guest-post-a-food-lover-on-gods-gift-of-taste/.

        On eating disorders, I recently read Life Without Ed and Intuitive Eating. They both gave me some great insights, but that second one has been practical in helping me understand food and eating better. Are you familiar with either one? I’d love to get your take on them.

        Tim

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      2. The Ed in Life Without Ed stands for Eating Disorder. It’s a way to personify the disorder so as to address it personally when it rears its ugly head.

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  2. This is another very good post; I am sill dealing with issues of anger around women, not that I am aggressive towards women or anything like that, just that I had quite a lot of rejections in times past from women, even though I have been told (now and again) that I’m not too bad looking! I suppose that’s a back-handed compliment anyway.

    What does God do about this? He sends me a number of women friends (not relationships, just friends) which has helped to heal me, helped me understand that all women are not gold-diggers and only interested in Brad Pitt/George Clooney clones, but are just as individual as we men are! I’m lucky now to have such friends, and feel blessed by God.

    Often these kinds of issues are brushed under the carpet, but we do so at our peril, simply because they affect so many people; it can be the hardest thing in the world to ask someone out, especially when we fear rejection so much; who doesn’t in fact? If the churches and more Christians dealt with such salient issues like these, and stopped arguing things like whose denomination is right, or many other lesser issues, more people, just ordinary not-particularly-religious people, would start to see the church as relevant to their lives, and more importantly would start to see Jesus as relevant too. We are commanded to take the gospel to the whole world and I think we could start by making it relevant to the modern age we all live in.

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    1. Great point about needing to make these issues relevant, Tim. Fear of rejection seems to be the number one thing that’s stopped me from doing so many other things in my life. Oddly enough, getting lots of rejection letters on my novel has helped me overcome part of my fear of rejection in other things. (Not the same thing as rejection in dating or relationships, I know.) I’m glad you’ve gotten to have more women as friends. Isn’t it interesting how God works?

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