A Unusual Party Invitation

I’m sure it’s happened to you. Through text, email or in person someone says, “I need to talk to you about something. When can we chat?”

Does your heart sink a little like mine does? Do you assume this means you’re in trouble for something you don’t realize you did?

Yesterday I talked about how our anxious responses to things are sometimes rooted in past experiences that bring back “that feeling” we had. Due to a series of events that happened in our family some years ago, whenever someone initiated a conversation with us, it was typically because we had messed up. This led to me reacting inwardly to anyone even suggesting that we needed to “talk.” The fact was, we were about to learn something else we had done wrong.

The crazy thing is that those involved in that difficult season of our lives have each asked our forgiveness for the ways things were handled, yet my inward response remains.

I’m having to ask myself if others are tempted to have this same response when I ask to chat with them. Have we gotten to a place as Christians where we’re intentional about talking with others only when there is an “issue” or something we “need” to discuss? Am I one of those people who only reaches out to share my thoughts when there’s a problem?

Imagine what would happen if we started regularly asking to get with people and then showed up with a list of things for which we wanted to thank or encourage them? Or how our relationships would be affected if 9 out of 10 of our comments to or about others were positive?

It reminds me of a party Benny and I threw decades ago. As a young church in the early 80’s, we were attempting to take seriously our biblical mandate to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) to one another.  It was refreshing to enjoy the kind of relationships where we could openly pass along areas of needed growth in our lives. I personally benefitted, for example, from hearing what my disrespect of Benny looked like or how harsh tones with my kids affected people.

Along the way we realized, though, that we had been neglecting another biblical command to encourage one another….daily (Hebrews 3:13)! So we had an “Encouragement Party.” Each person was asked to come prepared with prayerfully considered thoughts about what they respected or appreciated about other party-ers. The party went on for hours with people sharing special memories, thanking others in the room for being there for them during rough times or drawing attention to specific areas of growth in their lives. In the midst of laughs and tears, we all left that night more aware of the ways God was changing us than of remaining areas of needed growth.

Last weekend I had an angry reaction at some of my kids for which I had to ask forgiveness. It was one of those situations where past experiences influenced me and before I knew it my prideful heart resulted in angry words. I quickly experienced the gift of conviction and shared my regret with Benny in the car.

In characteristic grace, Benny seized the opportunity to remind me what real “speaking the truth in love” is. (More on that tomorrow.)

“Honey, you’re right,” he began. “You reacted angrily and that invited others to get angry, too. But you don’t typically respond that way. You also quickly recovered and tried to defuse a very tense situation by calmly communicating the need to talk about things later. God helped you and you did a great job there at the end.”

Ahhhhh the joy of timely, specific encouragement. Someone noticed. And he didn’t just notice but he spoke up. He could have added to my conviction and regret by bringing up times I’ve been angry with him or trying to help me see a pattern of angry reactions born out of bitterness or resentment in his heart toward me. He didn’t trivialize my sinful anger, but also drew attention to God’s grace.

I have an idea. Let’s have an Encouragement Party. Can you think of a few people you can take initiative to encourage? We could even make it really fun and say, “I’ve got some things I’d like to share with you. When can we chat? And I want you to know I think you’ll be really blessed by what is on my heart.” If email or Facebook is your preferred way of communicating, imagine how fun it will be for people to open your messages!

If you decide to do this it would be so fun for us to hear how it goes. (You can share your thoughts in the comment section.) I’m gonna give some thought to who I want to reach out to right now!