Are You Too Weary to
Climb that Mountain?
by Lucinda Secrest McDowell
“How much farther to the top?” I panted to my hiking companions. My Furman friends and I loved to spend weekends climbing in the Great Smokey Mountains, but I inevitably seemed to drift into that unenviable position of ‘bringing up the rear.’
“Not too far, Secrest. You can make it. Keep going,” one of them yelled down.
“Look y’all! Turn around. From here it looks like the top to me! Couldn’t we just pretend we‘re already at the summit?” I pleaded.
Desperate for a rest, I was quite willing to accept this partial view as a reward for our day’s climb.
If I had, I would have missed so much.
A grander panorama of beauty awaited me at the peak. A celebration of friends reaching the top together. A feeling of accomplishment for having completed the journey.
To this day, old college friends still tease me, “Remember, Secrest, ‘Looks like the top to me!’” they laugh.
But actually it’s a sobering thought to think that I almost gave up before reaching the summit.
What they did was to encourage me – to keep going. They fleshed out that word that means to ‘inspire courage’ in another person, often to take important and meaningful steps.
And I’m not just talking about climbing mountains.
Knowing how much I need verbal support, I determined early in life that I would “encourage each other and build each other up.” (I Thessalonians 5.11)
The Greek verb here is parakaleo, which means ‘to encourage or comfort, to come alongside, to beseech.’ It appears in the imperative and is a continually commanded action – keep on encouraging.
Words are powerful tools. They can crush. They can build up.
Perhaps the best words of encouragement any of us will ever hear remind us we are truly loved — “God loves you.”
“In our competitive workplaces, schools and world, we won’t hear much talk about love. These are the places where the language of being the beloved competes with the language of earned acceptance. Our various communities — healthy families; safe friendships; churches — are where we look forward to being accepted, embraced, touched and recognized for who we are.” (Henri Nouwen)
But there is no way we can encourage someone unless we are in relationship and aware of their struggles, challenges and feelings. We need to be involved and to listen actively and yes, even to sometimes ask the hard questions.
C.S. Lewis once said that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” Sharing words of encouragement shows others they are not alone.
When was the last time you had that “You too?” moment?
I’m so thankful my friends cheered me to the top of that mountain so long ago. And I’m also grateful for other voices through the years that have believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself. Those who took action and reached down to lift me up when I fell.
The softest voice that resonated the loudest was Jesus extending His grace to me – a gift I didn’t deserve and could never earn. When I finally opened that gift – truly received His grace — my whole life changed. Recognizing myself as the beloved, helped me to stop judging, stop performing, stop striving.
Sadly, I don’t always get it right.
Sometimes my words and actions discourage, instead of encourage, but God’s grace reminds me that there is always a second chance, to try again.
There is always an opportunity to turn around, face the mountain, and keep climbing.
Who will you encourage today?
under the mercy, Cindy (aka “Secrest” in college)
*selected from Day 37 in “Live These Words” by Lucinda Secrest McDowell ©2014
©2014 Lucinda Secrest McDowell EncouragingWords.net
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