The problem with being a baby is that you have to do things you don't like. For the sake of your "development" your parents and even your doctors subject you to frustration after frustration. In some sick, twisted way your struggles somehow build up your strength.
Not the least of these struggles is what is referred to as "tummy time".
Tummy time is that part of an infant's day where he is left face down on the floor and required to flail, whimper, and wipe his nose in his own snot and drool in order to build up the muscles in his back and neck. This job becomes increasingly more difficult when you have "off the chart" noggins like my sons do - poor kids.
As 6-week-old Jeshua was lying on his belly, starting to climb the Mt. Everest of frustration, I thought I would give the sweet guy a little morale booster because, let's be honest, it's almost just as frustrating to watch someone you love be frustrated as it is to be frustrated yourself.
I laid down on my stomach facing him and put my face right in front of his. I started saying great cheerleader phrases like, "Keep pushing! Keep pushing!" and "I know it's hard, but you can do it," and "You are working so hard. I'm so proud of you!"
And then, as is often the case, I learned something in that moment with my baby.
"This is what it means to encourage."
The Biblical idea of encouragement isn't just telling people you're-doing-great-keep-at-it-never-give-up-I'm-praying-for-you-atta-boy. Yes, verbal affirmation is great and often invaluable, but it takes even more to truly encourage someone.
It takes getting down on your belly with them.
The Bible's idea of encouragement is to come alongside someone, to spur them on, and to literally "give courage" to them. It has the idea of walking with a person, side by side, in a common direction. To truly encourage someone you can't stand at a distance. You have to be next to them, belly down and chin up.
When a friend is having a hard time in her marriage, get down with her and say, "Keep pushing! Keep pushing!" When your child is being left out because she doesn't agree with what's "cool", lay beside her and remind her, "I know it's hard, but you can do it." When your husband feels like he can't keep up with his job or his studies (or both), put your face in front of his and tell him clearly, "You are working so hard. I'm so proud of you!"
Encouragement doesn't come from the sidelines. We have to jump out of the cheering section and join our brothers and sisters in the trenches - there speaking the truth that will give them strength, boldness, and the courage to press on.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.