So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter.
(Hebrews 12:1-2a CEB)
On Wednesday, All Saints’ Day, I got one of those work anniversary emails from LinkedIn that litter my inbox several times a week. It asked me to congratulate Susan, a friend who had passed away nearly 2 years ago. It felt like the Spirit tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me what All Saints’ Day is about.
It is a bit counter-intuitive in our death-averse culture, but I appreciate All Saints’ Day. I value the opportunity to remember the cloud of witnesses surrounding us (Hebrews 12). People of faith who encouraged us in life, still inspire us after their deaths.
On All Saints’ Day, I always remember Mrs. Hartman, my kindergarten Sunday School teacher and my family’s pew neighbor that I saw every Sunday until I graduated high school. I remember Henrietta, a member of one of the first churches I pastored, whose generosity astounded me. I also remember Pastor Norm who, among many other things, taught me through his words and example that the trick to being a good pastor is to love the people in front of you.
This year, God through LinkedIn brought Susan to mind. Susan was instrumental in my move to Colorado. I don’t know if I would have been able to make that move without her gentle encouragement. She often asked me to share the story of how God made me comfortable with the move. I don’t think she knew how big a role she played in that process too.
When I was going through a difficult season, I turned to her and her professional expertise. She proved to be a faithful friend who ministered to me through days of discouragement. Time and again, it became clear to me that Susan was cheering me on.
I’ve heard from others who also felt Susan’s encouragement. She was everyone’s cheerleader—individuals, ministries, and the church. Always quick to say just the right thing, and always willing to pitch in to help in any way she could, Susan still inspires me.
She taught me the power of an encouraging word, a ministry I seek to continue. One day I hope to be nearly as good at it as she was.
This Wednesday, I reminded that we are each surrounded by a cloud of witnesses cheering us on. Part of our ministry it so assume that role for others.