“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…” Hebrews 10:24
There are many brutal details and decisions that crash in upon you in the wake of loss. I came to a point when I was ready to pull together several piles or stacks of memories into one place for storage. Packing a few important memories in a storage bin is an excruciating step. I came across a stack of over one hundred letters Kim had kept. These were letters I received from her while we dated long-distance over the course of almost two years. Once we married, she kept the letters.
I’m so glad she did.
I could not simply pack the letters without reading through them one more time. It took me several weeks to slowly read through the letters. As an aside, we were so immature and even a little cute. I walked down memory lane, and I read every letter again. My first reading was before I married Kim; my final reading was after I had lost Kim.
And I learned something.
Kim saw the potential of attributes and gifts in me while we were dating. Raw material. I read letter after letter commending me and encouraging me to be who God created me to be. Specific and focused encouragement. I don’t want to overstate this, but I want us to all learn some lessons. I look at the man I have become, and she encouraged me and believed in me to become that man. Her encouragement bore fruit. The man she encouraged grew, in part, because of her encouragement.
I learned four lessons about encouragement from her.
1. Encouragers selflessly live for the good of others. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to focus on ourselves and our own needs, even in marriage. It takes intentionality to get to know others. Of course, we were falling in love and neither of us minded getting to know the other. However, Kim selflessly gave herself through her letters to encourage me in specific ways. It was obvious she was seeking my good. She was building me up, encouraging me.
“…we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 1 John 3:16
2. Encouragers carefully speak truth into lives. I’m not talking about general encouragement. I’m talking about inspiring me to walk with Christ. Godliness. She commended me for my leadership in our relationship. She encouraged my kindness and other attributes. She reinforced and encouraged godly traits. She reinforced truth and applied it to my life. I grew and matured because of her investment.
“Love…rejoices with the truth. “1 Corinthians 13:6
3. Encouragers genuinely love. Her numerous letters, written across two years, declared her growing love for me. She was genuine. She expressed love and humility. She encouraged me to take on the world! Her belief in me inspired me. She was transparent and authentic. One thing about her is that she was who she was all throughout our marriage. Genuine. Seeking to love me and others all of her days.
4. Encouragers establish confidence. I never doubted Kim’s love. She was unwavering in her commitment. I knew it. My confidence came from her consistent encouragement.
“Oh, how I miss you sweetheart. You are great…I’ll love you ‘til the day I die.” Kim Plumblee, May 8, 1982
And she did love me until the day she died. I was confident in her love. And now, I have a question rolling around in my head.
What would I have been without her encouragement?
My experience inspires another question. What could your encouragement do in the life of your spouse? What about your children? Your grandchildren? How about your friends? Are you mentoring others younger than yourself? What will your encouragement mean to them?
Let’s learn four lessons from an encourager’s example. Let’s live for the good of others; let’s speak truth into the lives of others; let’s show genuine love to others; and let’s establish confidence in others.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
NOTE: As I release this entry written over a year ago now, I am being encouraged by another encourager in my life, my fiancé. Thank you, Amanda.