This week I was driving to the place where I volunteer. I pass by an elementary school. I am not sure if it was recess or a PE class, but there were a group of students walking along the perimeter. They were following one another. They were not in single file so some of the students were walking with three or four others while some were walking with one or two others. My eyes fell to a young man that was walking by himself. I instantly felt sorry for this young boy. I wanted to pull over and start walking with him. I didn’t know if it was his choice to walk alone, or if he didn’t have friends or just what the situation was, but my heart broke for him. I thought about how this young man might have needed encouragement to keep going. I silently said a prayer for him and drove on.
My thoughts were still with this young man. I couldn’t get him out of my mind walking alone. Well, you know me and God. As usual God spoke to me. I was reminded there are many Christians walking this walk with no one to walk along side of them. Many people dash ahead of them, keep going and never look back. Some are following others and have not reached the place where others are. Then there are the stragglers. At each point there could be folks walking alone with no one to encourage them, to help them or to push them forward. God reminded me of this young man and asked me what was I doing to help others like him on their walk? I really couldn’t stop and walk with this child; in this day and age they’d have me arrested, but God told me there are others like him I could help if I was willing.
I am leading a group and we are studying Philippians. I am using a book by David Jeremiah. One of the things David says in his book is this, “The word consolation is the Greek word for paraklesis, which means to draw alongside of one. It is in Christ that we have great incentive to be encouragers and to draw alongside one another.” He goes on to say, “It was Christ who reached out to encourage us when we were needy. The testimony of his entire ministry is one of helping and encouraging others. (Taken from Turning Toward Joy pages 61 and 62) That is what God was talking to me about; walking alongside one another and encouraging them and helping them along the way. It’s not about running ahead of others; getting so far ahead we think we are better, smarter or wiser. It’s more about going together and getting there together.
This morning in my devotion I was reading parts of 1 Corinthians 13. Once again God reminded me it’s more about loving others, caring for others, not having a swelled head and putting others first.
The things about walking along side someone you not only encourage others, but others encourage you along the journey. You gain something from them; strength, wisdom from experiences they might have had.
After I was done volunteering that afternoon a friend of mine who works there came into the client’s room and started sharing with me. She was going through some difficult times. She needed to talk about some things she had learned from her Pastor the night before. They had been studying the Beatitudes. We began to share and talk. She talked and asked questions and I listened. God gave me some things to share with her. I asked her questions and got her to do some thinking. Together we worked through some things. God had taken the incident with this young man to prepare me for this time with my friend. He knew she needed someone to talk to; someone who could encourage her and God even gave me some words of wisdom for her. I know they came from Him because I couldn’t have come up with some of those things. Afterward we stopped and prayed. You could feel God’s presence in the room. It was awesome.
Had I looked at that young man and dismissed him I might have missed the opportunity to walk alongside my friend. I might have missed the opportunity to encourage, helping her ponder some things over and she would have missed out on those words God had given me just for her.
I am not special. I was just doing what I was called to do. God calls each of us to do something. This time He prepared me, but I had to be open to His calling. How many times have you missed an opportunity because you weren’t open to His calling? How many times has God brought a situation to your attention, but you dismissed it? He takes ordinary events and teaches us and prepares us to help others, but we have to be open to His calling. We have to be aware of His presence in our lives. It’s not easy and it takes practice. We don’t do it for our benefit, but for the benefits of others. Paul talked about walking alongside others to help and encourage. God calls us to put into practice what Paul has taught us. “Each of you in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 If we are way out in front of others walking alone we cannot help others nor can we encourage. I don’t think shouting over your shoulder, looking back is much encouragement.
I hope instead of running ahead of me you will slow down and walk with me. I hope you will encourage me, let me learn from you and listen to what God may be telling you to share with me. I will be more than happy to walk alongside of you; together we can learn and grow into Christ more deeply and love each other with the same love Christ has for each of us.
The race or this journey will be more enjoyable if we do it together. Won’t you join me?
Dear God: thank you for that young man walking alone. You have taught me so much about never allowing others to walk by themselves. You have reminded me Paul taught us to walk along side each other; to consider others first and to love others deeply. That is what I want for my life. I never want to look up and see myself walking alone. I want to walk along with others so I may learn, listen and be encouraged. I want to walk alongside those who need to learn from me, who might need to hear words that you have shared with me and to encourage others along the way. Thank you for circumstances where we can learn from them. Thank you for the opportunity to put what I learned into practice. Thank you for preparing me. May I always be prepared to do the work you have called me to do. Amen.