I talked about grace in my last posting, and it is a topic that can span into so many different areas of life. It's very important that we understand and receive grace personally; grace acts as an enabler of the best sort. Additionally, inasmuch as we are recipients of grace, we ought to be pouring grace out on the people around us. True grace isn't something we keep to ourselves, but something that transforms us and redirects our involvement with others.
We often focus on the things we shouldn't do or shouldn't say. It's easy to line up the "Do not's" and forget about what we should be doing. We pat ourselves on the back because we didn't lie in an uncomfortable situation, but on the other hand, does our life and actions and words exude truth and honesty? We feel proud of ourselves for not "blowing our top" and yelling in frustration, or saying something we shouldn't - but how often do we speak encouraging, gracious words?
I think the true expression of God's grace at work in your life is not the absence of doing wrong, but the outflow of goodness and patience, kindness and joy, truth, encouragement - all that contributes to a wholesome, inspired, healthy life.
I like to be in control - so controlling my behavior and not acting foolish, obnoxious, angry, or insensitive is something I constantly think about. Unfortunately, just because I can lock myself into a room emotionally, and not have a negative effect on others (because I'm so good at controlling myself), I'm still not making a difference and I'm not causing a positive impact. It's like saying "I've never robbed anyone; I don't steal!" but you also hoard everything to yourself and turn a deaf ear to the hungry, poor, and needy.
I'm really preaching to myself. To all my efforts I put into "not being bad", I say: SO WHAT?!?
It's a sobering reality. I feel like I've drank a strong brew of eye-opening revelation.
I know that I can tangibly make an effort to change this cycle with my words. My desire is to be more encouraging. I need to plant words of affirmation, destiny and hope into the lives of my kids, my husband and others. It seems like our words are the ideal starting place that I can think of to pour out grace into people's lives.
Proverbs 16:24 says:
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
We have the opportunity to grant so much life and joy and delight with our words. It's important to notice the good that others are doing. Notice when someone has put effort into their appearance, or the food they're making or, in the case of a child, a chore they're learning to do. I feel pretty faulty with this - it's really easy to say: "You didn't sweep well enough - there are crumbs everywhere!" It's easy to correct and direct your child's behavior. It's a lot harder to step back and look at things from their perspective - did they put an honest effort into their work? Is there something else they tried hard to do? Praise their efforts, and I imagine there will be a lot more help offered, and less grumbling in the home. I'm pretty sure this translates over to husbands as well... When you appreciate your man, and the things he puts effort into, he's a lot more willing and happy to help out when you ask!
Unfortunately, I feel like I have to re-write my programming in this area. I think of these things at all the wrong times, it seems. I'll remember that I should thank my children after they've already gone to bed or I think of it when I'm away from them. So, I've taken up the habit of writing stuff down (even writing it on my hand... sorry if that makes all the mothers out there cringe!) I HAVE to create this new habit - and whatever it takes, I will do it. Until it becomes a normal part of conversation, a natural outflow of grace, I have to prime the pump and get it flowing!
Have you ever noticed that when you've had words with your spouse (or someone you're close to), it's really hard to just dive back into being "nice"? You know that this issue should be done and over with - you've even apologized and agreed to move on, but it is still really hard to make the first move and be affectionate or kind once again. This is what I'm talking about! Just get it started, and the more you do it, the more it will flow out of you! (Again, I'm preaching to myself!)
One more thought - although the best way to affirm might be verbally, another way could be to write a note. We have a white-board on our fridge, and it would be a great place to write appreciation, admiration and thanks in our home. Not only would it encourage the intended audience, but it would be noticed by everyone else in the home and become a major promoter of gracious living!
P.S. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how to be more encouraging... feel free to post comments!