by Father Rob
When I graduated from college in 1970, I had a brand new engineering degree and a matching job in Charlotte. The job came complete with what seemed to a 22 year-old young man to be a huge array of responsibilities and job expectations. Like many young people who find themselves freshly out of the somewhat sheltered environment of the college setting, I did not have a great deal of confidence in my ability to meet the challenge.
My first night in town was spent at my uncle’s home, and I’ll never forget what he told me over breakfast the next morning. “Soon enough you will be running that company,” he said. These brief words of encouragement became indelibly burned into my memory. Just when my confidence seemed to be lacking, he came alongside me and was confident for me. His efforts to supplement my waning belief in my abilities became pivotal in bolstering my courage for the challenging and rewarding profession that awaited me.
I retired from that company 31 years later. I was not exactly running the company as he had prophesied, but I had become a successful part of its management team. Would it have been different without my uncle’s gift of encouragement that morning many years ago? It is hard to know for sure, but I believe it would have.
Today in my totally new job as a priest, I often find myself a steady dispenser of encouragement. I come alongside folks in life’s hard and arid places, and I encourage them to press on to the far side of their dilemmas. The encouragement needed comes in many forms, and it may involve nothing more than instilling confidence that there is indeed a far side. It is important in any array of difficult circumstances for the person in need to know that neither God nor I have left them. Sometimes, my supportive presence is enough aid for them to begin the problem solving process independently. Confidence is also found by many in the “Comfortable Words,” as our liturgy phrases it; or the situation may require that I roll up my sleeves and help share the burden in whatever way I can. Courage is not only found in what I do, but in what I do not do, which includes withholding or delaying criticism even when warranted.
Our words have great power, particularly for those for whom we are a significant other. What is said when one is in need of the courage to begin new career, overcome obstacles great or small, or embark on any of life’s journeys has the power to determine the direction they may take. We can pronounce blessings or curses, encouragement or condemnation. Our words give the permission and the courage for that person to live into and actualize our words of encouragement. We can all be ministers of encouragement…. Are you?
Father Rob Hartley is the rector (pastor) of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in North Augusta. You can reach his blog, “North Augusta Anglican,” at http://holytrinityna.blogspot.com/