I keep getting text messages. Little beeps come throughout the day letting me know there’s a message waiting for me. I check my phone… a smiley face. That’s it. A simple little smile greeting me. But it’s not just a smiley face, it’s a sign.
I wrote about signs earlier – little things God sends us to let us know He’s thinking about us. I guess it’s a theme this week in Zimbabwe. I am surrounded by signs. Signs from God, signs from my friends… This one, the smiley face, is from my friend Bill. He told me before we left that he was going to text me and send me a smiley face every time he prayed for me, so I would know I was being thought of and prayed for… to encourage me throughout the trip.
I’ve never had anyone do something like that for me. I mean, I know lots of people are praying for us and thinking of us – but there’s something special about getting that physical little encouragement and reminder every day. I’ve already been surprised by how it warms my heart to see that come through. I am pretty independent, so when he said he was going to do that I wasn’t expecting it would mean so much. Fine – that’s nice… but no biggie, you know??? But it has been a big deal. It makes me smile every time I see that texted smile. Someone is thinking about me, someone is praying for me…for us…for this trip. It’s not just that he said he would be praying for me, but I have proof that he is – right then at that very moment. It’s proof that friends really are invested in me, and in this trip and in what God has in store.
I actually have begun to think that I should maybe pay attention to the timing of when I receive those smiley faces. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that God prompted him to pray for us at specific times when we needed it throughout this trip. I’m looking for that too. But for now, it’s enough just to know how blessed I am by love and friendship. It’s enough to be so encouraged.
I know that it’s changed me. For one thing, it’s opening my eyes to how much that constant touch, constant communication is warming to the soul. My hardened, independent, single heart needs this – not just for my own sake, but because I need to know how other people need this too. Because I don’t know how to love well. Because there’s something in me that is afraid to need others, afraid to need to be loved and afraid to need encouragement – because, as a single, I don’t have it available to me in ready supply – at least not through conventional methods. Therefore, needing that makes me vulnerable without the promise of a safe place for that vulnerability, or the promise of an answer to that need. And because I’ve gotten so much this way, so very used to protecting myself from feeling that need, I have little understanding or patience for those who have not. I’m not as compassionate or sensitive to those who wear that need on their sleeve.
I realize more and more that it’s hard to give what you do not have. I can’t give tenderness when I don’t have it. It would never even dawn on me to give that daily, loving encouragement to someone like Bill gave me – because I haven’t ever had it…and because I never even thought about wanting it, or knew that I would appreciate it – until now. But I want to. I want to love well. I want to support and encourage other people. It’s just that I struggle to know how, and that sometimes I’m afraid to do it, because it might open me up and I’m not sure I could handle that.
Smiley face. You are loved. Someone is thinking of you and praying for you. My own face smiles in response. And I’m sure if my heart had an emoticon, it would be smiling too. A smiley face that comes as a symbol of love, kindness, compassion, tenderness… a sign that my own empty storehouse is being filled up, so that I can give to others what is being given to me. It’s changing me. It’s opening my eyes. If this means so much to me, how much might others be blessed by the same thoughtfulness and compassion?