Encourage One Another

1 Thessalonians 5:8-11

But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

I have given birth to two babies. I remember when labor began. In the case of both deliveries, the process kicked in during the middle of the night when my body and my mind were at rest. It began without any decision on my part. I can recall in both births that clear understanding that moved me to say: It is time!

There was no doubt. Even though I had no clue how long labor would last, and even though I had no knowledge of the being to be born (that was before it was common to have foreknowledge of the sex and size of the unborn child), what I DID know was that birth was imminent and that my life was about to change -- forever. I will never forget the amazing awareness that my body was actively involved in a dramatic process over which "I" had no control. I was an observer, and I could participate in it and work "with" my body's natural movement, or not. But the process would unfold to its completion whether I chose to be with it or not.    There was no turning back, no capacity to stop it.  The child WOULD be born.

I remember, too, how wonderful it was to be surrounded by attendants, including my husband, who filled my mind with encouraging words. Everything I needed was bestowed by those who were companioning me. They gave me ice chips to cool my tongue, cool cloths to soothe my brow, bolsters and pillows to ease my aching muscles, and information to encourage me in the experience. The attendants could see the emergence of the baby before I could...and their description of seeing the crown of the baby's head, then the full head and then, finally the entire being (It's a girl!!!!) served to sustain me in my labor.

In Paul's letter to the church we are reminded of the important task we have as the community of saints to encourage one another. We know that we live in an imperfect world, and we never really know what the day will bring.  At any given time, a tragic event may result in irreversible change. Indeed, Paul's words would paralyze us if he ended with the image of darkness and stealth that may comprise life in this world. But Paul proclaims that we are not left alone to suffer destruction. Even though the world may deal us unforeseen blows, we are also "becoming" more enlightened, indeed more powerful, because of Christ's continual transformation of our mind and our being. The onset of faith's transformational momentum can be likened to the birthing process...and we are wise to stay awake and aware so that we may notice its approach and participate in its emergence. We also are called to attend each other's process of transformation.

How can you attend somebody today as they move towards the new life Christ is generating? Does somebody need comfort or support? Or would somebody be uplifted by some words that affirm faith's movement in their way of thinking or behaving?

It is time!  Whatever is stirring, whatever is about to be born, we don't need to be in labor in isolation.  Thanks be to God for the encouragement of the entire all the saints!