I think it's probably more along the lines of, 'another year older, another year wiser'. Amen to that. It's about time I grew up and starting acting like an adult. Maybe it's that nasty cynicism creeping into my world, leaving a bitter after taste of pessimism behind whilst cleverly disguising itself as being 'in touch with reality'.
But I think it's even more than that. I think it's when we finally get comfortable in our own skin and have developed enough self-awareness to realise just what makes us tick. I've been around me long enough to know what I'm like.
I've done the personality tests, the spiritual gift tests, the questionnaires, the psychological tests, the IQ tests, read the books, listened to the tapes, heard the sermons, and I've come out the other end knowing a few things. I know I'm a melancholic choleric who has the gift of wisdom and has a HUGE IQ. I also have the gift of exaggeration.
But even after all those written tests, there's a few things that time will eventually tell you, and often they will come from everyday interaction with everyday people. The beautiful people on the same team, the gifted individuals, the leaders, the sandpaper sisters, those darn sanguines and irritating phlegmatics who can't make a decision. It's through everyday life that I learned a few lessons about people, but also about myself.
I learned that I'm passionate about team. I love team, the very thought of team makes me smile. I'm sold out to the house of God. That's where you'll find me. I like to make big decisions carefully, complete with the pros and cons list. I despise it when commitment is lacking. And I believe that encouragement is one of the biggest weapons in my arsenal.
When I think about how vulnerable I used to be as a young person setting out on the Christian journey and how much it meant to me when a leader or friend encouraged me with a note, quality time, a kind word or something else meaningful, I'm reminded of the impact it had on me. I haven't forgotten those things, and literally still have every note someone ever wrote me in a box. So when I look at this generation today trying to find their way, their calling, growing in their ministry gifts, I think back to the impact that encouragement had on me and I pay it forward.
My dad says, 'You catch more flies with honey than vinegar'. I can make more friends and help more people to grow through encouragement than I can through reprimand. There are times when you need to deliver the hard word (my college lecturer used to say 'two positives then a negative' and 'sandwich it with encouragement'), but geez, there are always way more opportunities to deliver the kind and encouraging word.
Encouragement is free. It costs me nothing, but you can't put a value on what it could mean to the other person. I want the people I do life with to never doubt that I believe in them.
At the end of my life, I want to be known as an encourager. A leader? Sure. A great friend? Absolutely. But to be known as an encourager, that every time I led, every time I interacted with someone, every time I taught a newbie musician, I found something positive that they did and something positive within them, and encouraged them. That's what I want to spend my life doing.
'Hey mate, the way you played that chorus was awesome, great job!'
'You did really well tonight, I loved that you jumped in that song, that was heaps cool.'
'You led the band really well tonight, especially when you brought the chorus down and built it up again, well done!'
'I can see heaps of potential in you, you're pretty great.'
'I'm so glad I get to do life with you!'
Words can be cheap these days, so I never want to sound insincere, but it really doesn't take much to be an encouraging voice in a discouraging world.
At the end of the day, if you sow encouragement, you reap encouragement. It's a win-win situation really.