Peter gave himself up for lost, and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement and implored him to exert himself. ~ The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
When my children were little they loved the stories of Beatrix Potter. One of my sons especially loved the beautiful language used by Beatrix Potter in her stories and often used her vocabulary. This was one of his favorite passages and he would implore his siblings to exert themselves when he thought they needed some encouragement while learning to ride a bike or swim or struggle through some other difficult task.
I often used it too, especially when my children were learning to swim. As long as they were kicking and paddling they could keep themselves moving and keep their head above the water, but as soon as they began to tire and quit struggling against the water, they began to sink. Of course they also learned to float, but while floating gave them a chance to catch their breath and regain their strength, it did not move them through the water, so I would watch and cheer them on imploring them to exert themselves and keep kicking and keep paddling.
Today all my children are grown and they no longer struggle with childhood challenges, but as I watch them trying to make their way I often want to implore them to exert themselves as they struggle with sin, temptations, and the difficulties of this world. Unfortunately, life is much like a long swim and while we may need those seasons in which to float and catch our breath, we must keep struggling or we may eventually sink.
The writer of Hebrews urges us to encourage one another in much the same way the friendly sparrows encouraged Peter when he gave himself up for lost. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” ~ Hebrews 3:13
Thinking about how to continue to encourage my children in their struggles against their weaknesses and how to inspire them, I thought about the apostle Paul. Paul viewed the churches he helped establish and the people in them as spiritual children and he wrote to them to instruct and encourage them. Although he spent hours preaching and teaching, his letters to the churches were able to extend beyond the reach of his voice.
When my children were younger I tried to take time to talk with them often and while I didn’t always know their struggles or understand the challenges they faced, I tried to encourage them to do the right things and make wise decisions. Although they are now young adults, I still try to take time to talk to them and encourage them, but I don’t always say all that is on my heart. It can be difficult to parent adult children. I no longer want to chide them or correct them, but I don’t want those words of exhortation to remain unspoken simply because they are sometimes difficult to say.
Occasionally, I have sent group emails to my children when I needed to communicate something to all of them or when I want to encourage them and remind them I am praying for them, but I have been thinking that perhaps I do not write to them and encourage them often enough – I think about encouraging them and sharing things I have discovered with them far more often than I actually do. We live in a time when communication is easier and quicker than ever before in history, so shouldn’t we take advantage of the technology available at our fingertips? Letters have long been a means of communication between family and friends and there are many famous examples of letters of exhortation great men of God have written to their children or their spiritual children. Emails may be a little more time consuming and inconvenient than a text, but like a letter, they allow you to choose your words carefully and they can be read and reread. We may not write with the excellence and wisdom of those great men before us, and emails/letters do take time and careful thought, but what is the sacrifice of a little time if they can encourage a grown child, a brother, a sister, or a dear friend?
While I wish I could spare my children many of the trials they may encounter as adults and the struggles with self and sin that they may face, I know that it is the difficult things in life that mold us and shape us. So I hope that I can encourage them to keep kicking and keep paddling when life is difficult and when they feel like giving up or think they have failed, I hope that I can always implore them to exert themselves. And it is my continual prayer that I can exhort them and encourage them lest any of them be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.