So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. For you know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.
But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:1-8
Please, I am not asking for tons of likes for this post. I am simply pondering the people of my past.
Have you ever thought of that? Have you ever thought of those people in your past who were quick to encourage, or those who would rather be boiled in oil than to ever say a kind word?
In thinking of this, I remembered an old episode of The Big Bang Theory. Raj had found a small planetary object in the universe, and People magazine listed him in their list of the 30 young rising stars under 30 that are worthy to be watched. Sheldon was rude and dismissive upon Raj’s announcement. The next morning, Leonard and Howard felt that they, mostly Sheldon, needed to apologize. Then Sheldon is confronted by his two friends…
I am sure some people would think that Sheldon’s behavior is a caricature of an extreme that does not exist, but my mother, in the Sheldon role, would be adamant and would never go along with the “apology.” She thought never complimenting and going out of her way to criticize was “love.” As Sheldon said of his father, she thought that if a kind word ever passed her lips for me, I would coast through for the rest of my life. She was kind to strangers and non-family church members. It might have just been me.
But my mother’s mother, my MawMaw, would find a way to click the LIKE button a dozen times for each post, maybe more, at least keep mashing the button until nap time. She would also give glowing comments. My other grandmother had been a school marm in a one-room schoolhouse, until her youngest of four sons transferred to the high school in town. She might not click the LIKE button. She would make comments to correct any grammatical errors and misspelled words. She would suggest that I look up certain words in the dictionary or thesaurus, but then she’d say things like “thought-provoking, a very cogent argument, a very erudite discussion, etc.” Of course, she would suggest that I look up the words of her compliments in the dictionary also. And yes, I think she had a dictionary in each room of the house, just in case a grandchild did not know a word that she used. Then again, I now use many of her ‘words.’
Of my college engineering professors, the head of the department and assistant dean of engineering would LIKE my posts. He wrote me annual letters until he passed away. A few other professors would make suggestions that I delve into the science a little deeper. One of my professors asked me to join a secret Christian society that was trying to find evidence of the miracles in the book of Genesis. He would LIKE any argument that I have used in combatting evolution and deep time, some probably using research initiated by that society. I still regret not joining the organization, but it was a combination of too naïve and too overworked with my schoolwork – the Army not allowing me to graduate a single semester late.
My differential equations professor retired after my one semester under his tutelage. When a pregnant high school math teacher walked into our class as a student, the other classmates hated her. They felt that the curve would be set with her getting the only “A”, and they had no chance of anything greater than a “C.” I thought that she would be a tough challenge. I feared getting a “B,” but I hoped that maybe if I could stay close to her performance, the old professor would hand out two “A” grades. On the evening after the mid-term exam, I was inducted into the math honorary society. My professor had the honors of introducing all the new members and he singled me out – the only one that took the question on the exam that was unsolvable (unsolvable because he wrote “+” when it should have been “-“ – yet, we were about to cover a technique where his question could be solved. Think Laplace transforms.). But, unlike the pregnant schoolteacher, I showed three pages of work where I tried everything that I knew to solve the “unsolvable” problem. I think he nicknamed me his pitbull, since our in-state rival’s mascot was the bulldog, along with Georgia’s mascot. Regardless, I was a type of dog, in his opinion, that would bite hard and not let go. The schoolteacher in our class, after that day, was struggling to keep up with the old professor’s new star pupil. My post from a few months ago entitled “DO THE MATH” would bring a chuckle from him, a LIKE, and maybe a few paragraphs of comments with examples he had seen regarding people who use numbers without checking the math.
Of my teachers from K-12, it might be 50:50 whether I get a few likes. My Chemistry/Physics teacher would LIKE all the science and math stuff. And oddly, out of all the teachers that I had growing up, the “hated” one comes to mind. She had been my mother’s English teacher. She was in her late 80s, early 90s, enjoying retirement until our English teacher got pregnant. She decided that she would teach again – old school. No one liked her and I was among them. My mother insisted that I invite this teacher to my piano/organ recital – so that she could say “Hello” to her old teacher. At the social after the recital, the old English teacher broke into tears, grateful for my invitation. When I gave her a chance to teach me at that point, I learned that we had a similar passion. She loved odd forms of speech. She loved spoonerisms, like Archie Campbell’s Rindercellar. She loved alliteration. She would have made effusive comments on a recent post title “Can Kant Can Can?” For having “hated” her for much of the first semester of my senior year, she taught me more things that have stayed with me than many of my other teachers.
Sure, I could mention the bosses that would say that what I write is the most illiterate garbage that they have ever seen – too bad I copied what they wrote word for word – as they say these days, “Just saying…” And yes, I had two bosses that said that I was illiterate after they had insisted that I use their words as a guide, just for them to find the errors in what they had written. Hey, they did not allow me the option to correct their bad grammar.
But my best-ever boss who gave me an extremely challenging assignment would click the LIKE button often. His first words to me were that he wanted to hear people complaining about my performance. If I led an organization of 200+ people and hid in my office, doing paperwork, there would be no complaints. But if I tried to do the best job that I could, my decisions would raise the ire of one person or another, and he would have to tell them that he stood behind my decisions. He was true to his word, backing every bold decision that I made for over a year, but to my misfortune, one of the most angriest opponents to one of my decisions took his place when this most-beloved of all bosses was promoted to Lt. Colonel.
But other than a few in the last two paragraphs and the rocky start of this post, I have not really talked much about clicking the LIKE button at all. This post has been a trip down memory lane, thinking of those who encouraged me.
In the NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups, the reflection questions at the end of 1 Timothy 6 include a couple of reflective questions that fit this discussion. Of those who have guided you in life, who was your ‘Paul’ who provided encouragement? With that in mind, who is the ‘Timothy’ that you should encourage?
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.
Very interesting post Mark, You know, in my email box, on occasion I get what I call spam type emails. They speak of how to increase your viewing audience to receive more likes, by signing up for what ever it is they are trying to sell. And every time I see one of those I think, that is not what it is about. The encouraging comments from others and the thought that a photo or a word made a difference to even one person is exciting to me. And reading your last paragraph, Who was your Paul, for me it was never another person. It was the Father, He was there the whole time. I just had to slow down and listen and take His hand. 🙂
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Amen. Earthly encouragement is fleeting but God is always there, loving us.