Be who He made you to be.
Really, that’s pretty self-explanatory and all that truly needs to be said.
But I fully realize that I, personally, need to stop and meditate on that first sentence for more than just a nanosecond, because lately it has been showing up in my life on a regular, noticeable, persistent basis.
In fact, it has been repeated to me so much that it is currently being intentionally and purposefully ingrained into my heart and mind; there’s no question a reason behind the repetition. I’m obviously supposed to take notice. And not just notice, but take action.
I’ve heard it on Sunday morning from the pulpit, read it in books, heard it on podcasts, been reminded by friends; you name it. The repeated message is clear: Be yourself! Be you.
I have had the great privilege of being born into and raised in a family, both immediate and extended, that is chocked full of individuals that know who they are, and live the life they have been created to live. It’s such a beautiful sight. So inspiring. I am blessed beyond words to have so many fantastic role models.
But I’m well aware that there are people out there who have not been as fortunate to have leaders show them what is possible in this life. I see these people drowning. Choking. Not able to breathe in their own lives. Why? Because they’re not living the version of their life that is the real one. They’re cheating themselves.
The most “real person” I have ever had the privilege of witnessing live life the way that God intended for him to live it was my late father-in-law, Joe. He was without question called by God to be a lover and an encourager of all people. And he did it with such abandon. To everyone, everywhere. He loved, and he encouraged. Waitresses, mailmen, strangers beside him at ballgames; it didn’t matter who you were or where you were, he loved you. He encouraged you.
It was amazing (but not surprising) to me to watch what happened after Joe suddenly died last fall. His family stood in a church for over 6 hours shaking hands and embracing the people that he had loved on and encouraged throughout his inspiring life. There were lines of people out the front doors and wrapped around the parking lot, waiting to tell his family how amazing of a man he was; to share the impact he had made on their lives.
As I was shaking hands with strangers and asking how they knew my husband’s father, one man in particular stood out to me. As I asked him his relation to my father-in-law, he said, “I delivered propane to his home.”
Now, this struck me hard because I thought, who takes the time to go out and talk to the man who fills their propane tank? And not only goes out and strikes up a conversation with the man, but also makes enough impact on his life that he comes to your funeral?!?
You see, my father-in-law got it. He knew what God put him on earth to do and he did it. He did it so well. He encouraged. He listened. He loved. He was the epitome of who God made him to be.
And the thing was, even though he wore a lot of different hats in life, and interacted with so many different kinds of people, he was the same man everywhere he went.
He was a pastor, a farmer, and a businessman. He was a husband, a father, and a grandfather. He was a coach and he was a friend. He was a brother, a son, an uncle. And in all of those roles, he was who he was.
He was the same man behind the pulpit as he was in the fields. He was the same man across from us at the dinner table as he was across from men in suits in a business meeting.
He just couldn’t help but be Joe. And it was wonderful to watch. So incredibly refreshing.
Many times while dining with Joe and other family members at a restaurant, I would witness him morph our tired, worn out, melancholy waitress into a giggling, chatty, lighthearted girl, sharing about her life and family and smiling incessantly in Joe’s direction. It was a fascinating sight.
I’ve never seen anybody else spend the amount of time investing in others the way he did. He literally devoted his entire life to speaking life into others.
I have heard several different individuals share with my husband that his father was “like a father” to them, or “the dad they never had” or “wished they’d had”.
Truth is, there wasn’t some amazing, secret, unattainable level of rocket science he was performing in order to get people to feel this way towards him. He was simply opening up his heart and his mouth and speaking directly into people’s souls. Which, I realize, for some people is very challenging to do. But not for Joe. It came as naturally to him as a duck floating on water.
And it didn’t only bring the people receiving the encouraging words joy, it also brought Joe great joy. You know the saying “it is more blessed to give than to receive”? I don’t believe that’s just in reference to physical gifts. I believe it also encompasses many of the fruits of the Spirit. When you give love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, thankfulness, etc., the blessing comes right back to you. Many times the blessing is loads of joy landing right smack dab in your lap. Man, did it thrill Joe to bless others with words of affirmation and purpose and encouragement! He would light up like a Christmas tree.
And I mean, honestly, I think we all have the opportunity to be a little like Joe, no matter who we are. God gave all of us the capability to listen, to love, and to encourage.
I don’t know about you, but the greatest problem I face when it comes to encouraging others is being concerned with what they might think or feel or say when I speak encouragement into their lives. The trick, I’m slowly realizing, is shifting my focus from myself (feeling nervous or stupid or embarrassed) to the other person, and realizing it’s not at all about me, and it has everything to do with them. I desperately need to stop being so drastically self-aware.
For example, a couple of months ago, I was in a restaurant restroom speaking with a little girl while I was washing my hands. She had politely asked me for help with a couple of things in the restroom, like the paper towel holder and the soap dispenser, and each time I helped her, she would look me in the eyes and thank me for helping her. I was so overwhelmingly touched by her sweet spirit and kind disposition. I watched her leave the restroom and immediately felt led to find her parents and tell them what a darling child their daughter was, and encourage them that they were doing a great job raising her up and teaching her manners.
And, just as quickly as the thought had entered into my mind, loads of doubt rushed in right behind. Instantly I thought it was a stupid idea, that her parents would think I was weird and creepy and crazy and they would think my words were unimportant. I convinced myself in a matter of a few footsteps that my encouragement didn’t matter. That I should just go back to my table and keep my mouth shut.
Then my mind flashed to all of the times strangers had approached my family’s dinner table in a restaurant and complimented my husband and I on our well-behaved children. Those simple compliments could literally leave a smile on my face for days after they were spoken. There is such amazing power in the spoken word.
On the other hand, if we are too selfish and self-focused to ever speak the words of encouragement that we think in our minds and feel in our hearts towards the people around us, we are robbing individuals of a great gift.
So, I got over myself for long enough to approach her family’s table. With sweaty palms and a pounding heart, I was painfully self-aware as I stood before them. Ironically, her parents actually did look at me like I was crazy for a split second, and then after I began to share my encouraging words about their daughter, I could see that I had deeply touched their hearts.
It really is more blessed to give than to receive. Loads of joy poured out into my soul, friends, rivers of joy.
We all, each and every one of us, have been put on earth to do something. Who are you? What are you called to do? No matter who you are, or what you’re supposed to do, I believe that loving and encouraging people, cheering them on to run the race that they are called to run, is part of everyone’s story. We all need challenged and reminded to do this on a regular basis. To look for the good. To encourage the good. To be the good.
So, this is me encouraging you to be who He made you to be, and as a daily reminder of this encouragement, I would love for you to download and print this feather, frame it, hang it on your refrigerator, tape it on your wall, whatever. Hang it somewhere that it can remind you to be you. And I challenge you to live this life to its fullest, and encourage others around you to do the same.
I chose the feather as a reminder of our uniqueness, because just like so many of God’s creations, there are endless patterns, colors, textures, shapes, and sizes of feathers. But, just because they’re all different, doesn’t mean they’re all not feathers. They all have a purpose. Feathers are very good at being what they’re made to be.
Essentially, the same can be said of human beings. We have endless patterns, colors, textures, shapes and sizes among us. But, just because we’re all different doesn’t mean we all aren’t people. We all have a purpose. We need to be what we’re made to be. We all have a job to do. Let’s encourage each other to look like and be the unique “feather” that we’re designed to be.
I would absolutely love love love it if you would take a few minutes and share someone in your life that is living the truest version of themselves. Or share about someone that is really good at loving and encouraging others. Sharing these stories helps inspire others to want to live “an alive life”. I can’t wait to read what you share. Thanks in advance for inspiring me.
P.S. If you feel led to share, then SHARE! Quit being so self-aware (I rhymed). I promise it will bless and inspire someone who reads it.
Thank you so much for reading!
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