Once upon a time, a young girl sat on her parents’ bed as her mother paid her in m&m’s for smiling at people that day. Not speaking to anyone; that was too advanced. Instead, the girl was given m&m’s for making a conscious effort to smile at strangers while running errands. It’s probably obvious, but that girl was me. And that mother was…my mother. Just another woman trying her creative hardest to bring out the best in her child. I’m sure that many of the days for many of the years her efforts felt slow and fruitless.
Fast-forward to today and I not only smile at strangers, I have even hugged them or invited them to my house! I don’t get m&m’s for it anymore, but now that I’m thinking about it maybe I should ask her for some…
A couple of weeks ago I got a very nice compliment from a friend. She was thanking me for something I’d done, but it was a thank you to my character—not just like a thank you for holding open a door while her hands were full or something. I’m pretty slow at processing feelings, so after a couple of days I realized how much I appreciated what she had said. It was really encouraging to me because she noticed something I do that I don’t often get thanked for. I decided to send her a long text letting her know I was grateful for her words.
That weekend, when she was at my house, she took a minute to thank me for thanking her! As strange as it sounds—thanking me for thanking her for thanking me—it was a really nice quick chat. She remarked that she was happy that I appreciated the time she took to pay the compliment. So often she says encouraging things to people, but if they appear to brush her off then she’s not sure if they even cared about what she said.
Why did we care about all those thank you’s??? I think my friend (hi, Rochelle!) and I both realize how much we want to receive positive feedback when we do good things. We crave the fruit of the seeds we are sowing. Some seasons we are doing a lot more sowing than we are reaping, and during those times we especially want to know that we are on the right track. It can feel a bit insane to be called to do something without seeing any results.
However, that’s how God often works. He calls us to do things—both easy and difficult—and expects us to do them for the sake of obedience, not the sake of results. We are to keep sowing seeds of His love and kindness, regardless of whether or not it is reciprocated. We are to keep telling others of His faithfulness, even if it seems like no one cares or is listening. We are to continue taking steps to wherever He is leading us, despite the destination not being revealed yet. We are to pray without ceasing even when we see no progress. That’s just the way it is…
But it’s so hard sometimes! We can cling to awesome Bible verses, and we can know deep down that we are on the right track, but there are still times of discouragement. Times where we are hungry for just a little bit of fruit so we can be refreshed and renewed in our purpose.
So what can we do about that? We can’t speed up God’s timing, or get sneak peaks that He doesn’t want to give us. However, I believe we can get in the habit of encouraging one another. Extend complimentary gratitude when appropriate, smile at strangers, tell someone you are thankful for them, etc. And as we begin to sow into other peoples’ lives, we too will receive encouragement. Maybe not right away—these things take time to grow—but God will give us endurance to keep on sowing even when it does feel fruitless or insane.
What about you? Do you feel like you are beating your head against a brick wall in an area of your life? Despite your obedience you aren’t seeing results? We can’t do a whole lot about God’s timing, however, maybe you will find some encouragement through encouraging someone else! If you and I are craving feedback, then I’m sure there are PLENTY more out there who could really use a positive word. If nothing else, just taking the focus off of ourselves for a second might be all the refreshment we need to keep going.
PS- thanks, Mama, for all of those creative ways you tried to get me out of my shell and into the world. I’ll always be an introvert, but because of you I’m a social introvert who cares about people. 🙂