It was a Sunday.
The last Sunday of the quarter that I’d been teaching the 1st and 2nd grade Bible class.
I had been assisting in Bible classes for nearly 10 years and had even taught a few times, but never completely on my own and never for a whole quarter.
The topic of the class was Exodus 12; the 10th plague; the Passover. In an attempt to really make the class come alive and do more than just the songs+prayer+lesson+craft format that we usually did, I went all out. I dressed in a Bible-times outfit. I bought lamb at the farmer’s market to make lamb meatballs and made little loaves of unleavened bread so the kids could taste something similar to what the Israelites ate as they waited to flee Egypt. I put paper around our classroom door and used red paint as blood and painted the top and sides of the doorframe as the Israelites did to protect their firstborn.
I worked hard. I wanted to make an impact.
Instead it was a total flop. They pointed out that the blood wasn’t real. That I was painting on paper instead of the actual door. They refused to try to food. They refused to pretend.
They didn’t all act that way, just a very vocal few who seemed more interested in de-bunking my act than playing along.
I was discouraged. After class was over and I cleaned up the remains of my lesson, I felt relived that this had been my last class.
And I did something I hardly ever do. I posted my frustration on Facebook. I said “It’s frustrating when you put a lot of effort into your lesson and then it bombs. I sure hope my Sunday school kids learned something today because they sure didn’t seem like they were listening.”
But then something wonderful happened. A mom of one of the boys on my class commented on my status. She said that her son had sung my praises and told her all about my lesson.
She didn’t have to share that. She could have kept that comment to herself. But by telling me that, she healed my bruised heart and gave me encouragement that my lesson hadn’t been ignored.
What a powerful impact those few little words had on me.
Fast forward a few days.
The teacher of the middle school and junior high girls class had to bow out last minute. She asked me to fill in for her. Not a problem, I say.
Then I found out the topic… a rather delicate one: homosexuality. I was way nervous. How would I explain that to 12-14 year olds? Would they be embarrassed? Would it be awkward?
Turns out, the class went better than I expected. They were mature and asked great questions. I felt relieved.
Even better was when two moms shared with me that their daughters had said I did a great job and another mom thanked me for talking to the girls.
Let me be clear – I did not share those stories to try to tell you how great of a teacher I am (I’m not) or to try to gain compliments by putting myself down (that’s not my style). Instead, I shared those stories to make a point of how powerful the encouragement of others can be.
Both of these incidents happened back in November, but the impact they had on me and the lesson I learned has been on my heart since that time and I keep feeling like I need to share it with you.
I think that I had forgotten how important encouragement is until I was the one who needed some encouragement. I’m sure it’s not the first time in my life that a women at church has said something encouraging to me, these incidents just happened to come at a time when I really needed to hear them.
Encouragement is something that I know I should do.
In fact, the Bible commands us:
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
But I forget. Sometimes I’m in a rush and don’t say anything. Maybe I don’t know what to say or I feel awkward expressing my feelings. That’s something I need to work on. It’s something we all could work on.
I can’t say that being encouraging is the thing I need to work on the most, or the thing I necessarily struggle with the most, but it’s certainly something I can improve on. I know I’ve said nothing when I should have said something encouraging. So this post is as much for me as it is for you. I just figure it it’s something I can improve on, there are others out there like me who could use a reminder, too.
I think it is extra important for women in the church to make a special effort to encourage each other. Women tend to be a bit more self-conscious and desire that little bit of confirmation that they are needed. We want to know “Am I doing a good job? Am I being a good wife? A good mother? Teacher? Christian?”. We women need to guide each other through this Christian walk, as is told in Titus 2:
Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
– Titus 2: 3-5
Are you encouraging the women in your life?
I don’t know about you, but while I enjoy lessons that remind me what I need to be or do, what I really want is for the teacher to give me concrete examples. If the lesson is about personal Bible study, don’t just remind me that I need to get better at it (I already know that!) – give me some tips and examples. If I’m going to a session on classroom management, don’t just tell me there is a need for teachers to have good classroom management (believe me, I know) – give me strategies on how to improve mine.
I think it’s safe to say that we could all use encouragement and that we could all do a little more to encourage the women, both older and younger, in our lives. We’ve covered that there is a need, now let’s talk about some specific examples. I shared two of my personal examples at the beginning of this post, but I want to give a list of other ways you can encourage your Christian sisters. However…you’re going to have to wait until my next post :). This one is already plenty long so I’ll save my list for later.
Until then, be examining yourself. Think about a time someone encouraged you and it really made a difference (feel free to share that experience in the comments!). Remember how that felt. Be praying about how you can be a more encouraging person. Be on the lookout for opportunities of encouragement today.