Occasionally I play a few games of Spider Solitaire on my phone or tablet. If you don’t know, it’s a variation of solitaire where you stack cards of the same suit from King down to Ace. I’ve never tried the hardest level, with all four suits in play. The middle level - two suits, where I “win” about 30-35% of the time - is challenge enough for me.
Often when I’m playing - especially on a particularly challenging game, or a long losing streak - I think of my old friend, Pastor J (even though he was promoted to glory about 5 years ago). Many moons ago this silly little game came up in casual conversation, and there are two things I distinctly remember about that long ago convo.
First, I was stunned that he played it. Pastor J was both a friend and mentor; down to earth, with an infectious laugh that was a delight to all. But he was was also well educated, polished and erudite, and it just felt like he must always be doing productive things - accomplishing something - so that surely he didn’t waste time on such trivial matters as Spider Solitaire.
But the other thing I remember from that conversation was his response when I told him I had maxed out my “win” rate at about 17-24%. When I expressed my “struggle” with something of a defeatist attitude, saying that I just couldn’t do any better, he said something so simple - and yet so profound - that it still impacts me to this day.
You want to know what he said? (If you’ve read this far, I presume that you might.) He said, “Sure you can!” I told you. Simple, right? But I’m not sure you can imagine how big of an impact those three words have had on me for the last 15+ years.
Not just in having the encouragement and confidence to improve to an MLB hitters success rate of above .300, but at other things I set my mind and hands to, as well. When I’m not sure if I can accomplish almost anything I’m trying to do I hear Pastor J’s voice, and see his gargantuan smile, saying, “Sure you can!”
In the first century Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica and said, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up.” He used similar words - encourage, build up - when writing several of his letters to other New Testament churches.
Encourage means to build, or put, courage into someone. And I’m so thankful that Pastor J did so on that day.
Do you ever see someone looking like they need encouragement? It may be that your “Spidey Sense” is tingling so that you can be the one to build them up - to put courage into them. You may not think it’s a big deal, but you may never know how much - or how long - it might impact their lives. Just in case you think you can’t be that encouragement to someone, let me leave you with three little words: “Sure you can!”