A WORD OF ENCOURAGEMENT by Liz Manning
It was only my second week back after extended sick leave and I was feeling more of a liability to the team. So I was moved to read what they wrote on mine. Here’s some: ‘always able to bring a new perspective’, ‘a great storyteller’, ‘very special to all of us’.
Encouragement is such an important attribute, isn’t it? But often overlooked I think. I loved that Edmund Weiner recently drew our attention to:
‘A bruised reed He will not break; a smouldering wick He will not put out.’
These are some of my favourite words in the Bible. Partly because I often feel like a bruised reed, but also because I can claim these as a promise when I see my loved ones struggling to hold onto their faith.
But, of course, they beg the question: What does God do instead of breaking the reed or extinguishing the wick?
Our open fireplace is a joy to be in front of on a storm tossed day. As the evening progresses, the flames die out. However, if you turn over a remaining log, there’s often a lingering glow. Sometimes rolling it over to the air is all it needs to blaze again; sometimes it needs a slow steady blow for it to catch and burn.
I can’t help but think that this is what God does - exposing us to the breath of His Holy Spirit to blow life back into us. Sometimes as writers, that might be an honest critique, or a suggestion to try something new like a Thought for the Day or poetry, a writing course or a retreat. Or maybe just remembering that sense that when we write we are truly who God created us to be – despite any outward signs of success.
Or what about the reed? Some plants naturally grow thick and strong. Others get damaged or are too fragile to support themselves or are weighed down by their own growth. Think of tomatoes or sweet peas. So what’s the answer? We stake them, fasten them to a cane to help hold them and guide them upwards.
And again I think of the supports that God sends our way as writers. The encouragers, the burden sharers, the coffee makers, the helpful reviewers and commenters. Some of us find these among our family and friends and there are certainly more to be found in this Association - online, in local groups, or at Study Days.
It’s easy, I find, to get wrapped up in my own writing and forget that ACW’s blog is rightly called ‘more than writers’. We serve God in our writing but also in our encouragement of each other. It might be something big, like editing an anthology, or something small, like a comment on a blog. We don’t know the effect one encouraging remark, one expression of belief in someone else’s writing. But God does and He calls us to use our gift for words, not just in our own efforts, but as His stakes and breath to help each other produce the fruit and fire He has planted and kindled in all of us.