okay don’t laugh too hard at this picture of me. it’s when i was a sophomore in high school. and yes, i was a cheerleader. don’t hold that against me. i swear, i was a nice one, albeit a sort of klutzy one.
a little bit ago i spent some time with one of my dearest friends, deborah loyd, who founded & co-pastored the bridge (the refuge’s awesome & amazing sister church in portland) for many years before retiring & beginning to teach at seminary. i met her and her husband ken through a mutual friend in the first few months of the refuge & we’ve become dear friends ever since. she is one of my cheerleaders. she reminds me this work is worth it. she knows what it feels like to be a female pastor in the not-so-female church world. she knows what it’s like intersecting with pain day after day. she prays for me. she worries about me. she cheers me on.
i’ve been thinking about this a lot lately–how we all need cheerleaders, people who believe in us, encourage us, inspire us, and challenge us to keep moving despite the obstacles.
unfortunately, a lot of the time there’s a spirit of competitiveness among people instead of encouragement. i honestly think that’s because of insecurity. some get threatened–if someone else succeeds, what does that mean for those of us who don’t ? if they do their dream, what does it say about us never trying ours? if they win, then that means we might lose. it’s so messed up, really, our lack of encouragement & support for one another.
it crosses both sexes, but i have just personally seen it more among women because i am one & know many who have really felt the lack of support from other women. there’s a lot of snubbing, ignoring, dismissing going on that can really be discouraging. it’s bad everywhere, but i think it’s even worse in the christian ministry world, where the free & inclusive spirit of supporting & encouraging others to fly feels fairly rare.
if there’s one thing i feel more committed to than ever it’s being a good cheerleader for my friends–men & women–who are trying hard things & need love and support. they are leading communities, healing from all kinds of gnarly pain, rebuilding after divorce, returning to college, pursuing new career paths, cultivating their artistic passions, writing books, muddling through parenting their kids, and caring for their aging parents.
whatever their situation, they need good cheerleaders. not fake rah-rah, but people who care, encourage, love, support, nurture, and believe in us.
and not just women encouraging women or men encouraging men. we need more mixing! i can’t tell you how healing it’s been to have male cheerleaders, too. i need both.
so here’s my question to you–who are you being a good cheerleader for? who needs your encouragement, your support, your reminder to keep on battling even it’s hard? it may be a person who is going through a difficult time in their life, someone who is jumping into something really scary or going back to school or wanting to step into their dream. it may be someone who is younger, older than you, or exactly the same age. the question is–how can you cheer them on & support them in their journey? how can you pull them up, pray for them, love them during this season?
my second challenge is this–if you need more cheerleaders, ask someone. be honest. let them know that you really need some extra love right now, someone in your corner. it’s risky, i know. i hate asking. but recently i did–i was honest & said “i can’t do this book thing without your support. please, please stick with me on this one; otherwise, i’ll just be too vulnerable.” it was hard to ask but i’m so glad i did.
i am ever grateful for the cheerleaders in my life, the men & women who support and encourage me. the truth is, without them, i wouldn’t be here. i needed other people to believe in me when i couldn’t. and now that i’ve been doing this in-the-trenches work for a while i know that in order to sustain, i need it even more because otherwise, it’s just too freaking hard.
yeah, we need more cheerleaders.
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ps: here’s a post i wrote for sheloves magazine this month from down we go. it’s called why prepositions matter. if you’re not already a facebook fan of sheloves, become one here. i am so glad to be part of contributing monthly; their heart for justice & love & hope & peace & courage is amazing.
also, here’s a post from my friend-from-the-carnival-blog-and-now-in-real-life sam who visited denver & the refuge last month & has a really fun blog series about loving your neighbor. he writes about his experience here in this post–being the church in community, part 8, the refuge. i do love our little sweet community. also, if you want the most amazing cookie recipe ever, it’s here.