Have you ever noticed that somehow the right people end up in the right places at the right times in your life? Every so often I stop to count my blessings, and one of God’s greatest blessings is the people God has put in my life.
If your experience is anything like mine you know that sometimes, when you're feeling pushed beyond your limits, God puts the right people in your path to give you a boost and help get you over the hump.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with four groups of people in the last five days who do just that for me, and I’m grateful to them and to God for their presence and influence in my life.
I’m grateful for my professional mentors, partners and guides. I attended Founder’s Day at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology this week. While I was there I spoke with professors of mine, pastors of mine, and former bosses of mine. And I talked to fellow church ministers, some who started their ministerial journeys with me and some who are a few steps further down the road.
And all of them smiled, shook my hand, maybe gave me a hug, and said something to encourage me. These are people who in one way or another have invested themselves in me or are sharing in my experience, and connecting with them encourages me. Their kind words mean something to me. They fill me up. And I am grateful.
Teenagers encourage me, too. I spent last Saturday at Six Flags with students from HERITAGE. Teenage enthusiasm is infectious. Teens are open and honest. They haven’t quite learned to be cautious and closed off yet. They trust the world and believe the best about people. They still know that things will work out okay in the end.
We sometimes laugh when children are afraid of Santa Claus or monsters under the bed. But adults build all kinds of imagined fears that box them in, too. Teenagers, on the other hand, live in that magical, mystical middle unencumbered by fear. It’s refreshing. You can learn a lot by hanging out with teenagers.
I’ve also enjoyed encouraging conversations with family this week—in person and on the phone and by text message. And friends, too. One sent me a funny email when I needed a laugh. Another sent a text message about a new rock n’ roll band in Atlanta. Each touch reminds me that there are people out there willing to share their lives with me, that I am not alone.
Even when we don’t feel particularly lonely or isolated, friendship is encouraging. We are, all of us, gifts from God to one another.
And I am incredibly blessed by church family. One woman who’s been like a grandmother to me for 34 years came to church to see me last Sunday. She lives in Acworth now and had to make arrangements to be away from her Sunday School class. Now in her 80s, she still teaches preschoolers every week.
I’ve known my current church family for less than a year now, but I know how lucky I am. They choose each day to reflect the love and graciousness of Christ in their encouragement and affirmation of me, so I work each day to live up to and into the shared vision that we're building together.
The people in our lives make a difference. Ultimately, it’s our relationships with other people that determine the quality of our lives. This week at HERITAGE, we’re talking about Christian relationships as the key to being healthy people.
I’m incredibly lucky to have relationships that bring health and balance to my life. I bet you have similar relationships in your life, too. Take some time to think about it.
I bet you’ll discover that you’ve got more people on your side than you ever imagined. That’s what I’ve discovered. And here’s what I’d advise. Treasure those people. Be there to encourage and support them, too. And thank God every day for them.
The writer of Hebrews envisioned an invisible, heavenly cloud of witnesses cheering us on in our race through life. How lucky are we who are surrounded by a visible and present crowd here on earth, too?
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.
See you Sunday.