A few months ago, Eden was invited to a birthday party that was held at her personal paradise - Pump it Up. She can run and scream and throw herself around and (most likely) not injure herself because everything is inflated with air to cushion your inevitable fall. Of course, Caroline tagged along too, as little sisters often do, but Pump it Up happens to be her own personal nightmare. Unfamiliar people are running and screaming, which seems to cause panic in her heart, and she does not appreciate ground that is unstable. I can't say that I blame her.
Places such as these are quite the social experiment. It is interesting to watch children (and adults) who do not usually "party" together, unite under a common bond to celebrate a mutual friend's birthday. The kids are not sure where the individual boundaries are, and sometimes they are asked to participate in party activities that they don't particularly care for under normal circumstances.
The rock-climbing wall was one of the activities that the children could enjoy. I am not a rock-climber myself. I know that may come as a surprise, seeing as I do not enjoy heights or perspiring. As a matter of fact, when I was in high school I was coerced into repelling down the side of a mountain by my adventurous youth leader and my daring peers, and I was scarred for life. I know some people relish the heart-pounding excitement of virtually, but not actually, falling to their death. I am not one of those people.
I have passed my lack of daredevil spirit on to my cautious but fun-loving daughters. So Eden was not going to attempt to climb that wall even if you carried her up there yourself. But there were a few brave souls who timidly approached the base of the rock and decided to strap themselves in and begin the ascent.
One of those valiant party-goers was a little boy that attends our church. Jason and I know him and his family well, so as he began to pull his little body upward, we watched and cheered for him. There were multiple times when he tried to quit because he thought it was much too hard, or he became intimidated by the amount of rock left to climb. But Jason and I both called out to him and told him he was doing great and assured him that he had the strength to succeed. And you know what? He did. You should have seen the look on his little round face when he reached the top and then floated back down.
A minute or two later, another little boy stepped up to the plate. I didn't know him at all, and I didn't see any other parents paying attention to the fact that he was getting suited up for the climb. He started up and immediately became discouraged. I didn't even know the child's name, so I waited to see if anyone else would offer some words of encouragement. No one did. He made a few attempts but eventually gave up, not even making it halfway to the finish line.
In the New Testament book of Acts, we are introduced to a man named Joseph. The apostles give him the name of Barnabas, which means "Son of Encouragement." Scripture says he was "a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith." (Acts 11:24) He must have also been a pure ray of sunshine to everyone around him. I'm sure the disciples didn't give him that name because he was the pessimist of the group. He was also the first of the Christ-followers to really accept Paul and encourage the others to follow suit. He even ended up being sent out with Paul on some of his journeys.
Life is much like climbing that rock wall. It can be daunting and exhausting at times. I know what it is like to walk through a fiery trial and feel like life is caving in around you. It is vitally important that we reach out and encourage those around us. First Thessalonians 5:11 says, "Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." In that same book and chapter, Paul says, "And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all." (1 Thess. 5:14)
Is there someone that you can encourage today? Look around, grow sensitive to the needs of others, and be a Barnabas.