Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
Yea, Thou does light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. Yea, by Thee I can crush a troop; and by my God I can leave over a wall. This God—His way is perfect; the promise of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him. Psalm 18: 28-30
One of the great joys in my ministry has been my involvement in summer camp. I make references to camp periodically on the Prayer Team. One of the things we promote at camp is encouragement and this is especially prevalent on the ropes course, a collection of obstacles that cabins complete as a group. These experiences have a direct correlation to the Christian life and to life in general.
One of the obstacles on the ropes course is a twelve-foot-high wall. Each cabin must get their entire cabin over the wall by working as a team. The first person who gets over the wall may have assistance from his/her cabin-mates on the ground. They can hoist the person up but they must pull themselves over the wall. On the back side of the wall is a deck where a couple of people can stand. Once two people are over the wall and standing on the deck, they may help to lift up cabin-mates from above, while others are lifting from below. The last person who goes over the wall has to go over with no help from below but can jump and be pulled up from above.
The wall teaches participants several things:
- Some people are afraid of heights and the wall teaches them about overcoming fear.
- Trust is an important lesson on just about every element, and there is certainly a trust element in allowing people to lift you and pull you over the wall.
- There is a teamwork element to this activity. The cabin has to work together as a unit to make sure the ones lifting and the one being lifted are moving in sync.
- There is an element of planning involved as the cabin must decide who is going to go over first and who is going to go over last because these will go with minimal assistance.
The wall illustrates something else that is very important. If there are two people on top of the wall lifting someone, and one person runs and grabs the ankles of the person being lifted up, do you think that the two lifters can overcome the guys who is pulling the climber down? The answer is no, and that is because of gravity. One person is climbing up, two people are lifting, and now one person jumps on the ankles of the climber and now it’s the weight of two plus gravity against the strength of the two up top. The climber loses, every time.
How many people do you think it would take up on top lifting the climber, to counterbalance the one tearing the climber down? The answer is probably FIVE. This supports the 5:1 ratio we will later discuss on the amount of encouragement to discouragement one needs to receive in order to be in any kind of balance.
But before we go to that, something that we will address much later, the easy lesson of the wall is that it is much easier to pull someone down than to pull them up. It is much easier to tear someone down than to build them up. And the questions we ask the campers are these:
Are there more people in your life who are pulling you up or tearing you down? And who are these people?
Are you someone who pulls people up or who tears them down?
The wall describes every human life. Every human life has walls to get over. Every human being requires help getting over the walls. That help might be something significant like being lifted by someone else. And that lift could be as simple as an encouraging word or as significant as doing the bulk of the work for someone in order for them to conquer something. In any case, we all have walls and we all need help getting over them.
When we build people up, we are like the people on the top of the wall doing the lifting. We are the ones who are helping someone get over their “walls”, whatever those might be. When we are the ones who jump on the person who is climbing and tear them down, we not only cause someone to fail and be discouraged, we also hurt and discourage the ones above who are helping. We actually can cause collateral damage to a lot of people.
In our lives, we require many more people who will build us up rather than tear us down. Thus, we need to be cognizant of the people we associate with—are they people who bring us up? Or people that bring us down? And the bringing down is not only in the form of discouragement, it might be in the form of temptation. For instance, the person who is trying to be a good student may be “torn down” from his or her studies by friends who are always distracting. We all have walls to get over in life. Do we have people around to help us?
We also will all be in a position to lift up someone else in life. Are we people who bring others up? Or as we people who tear others down? We need to ask ourselves in our daily decisions of what we say and do, is what we are doing going to build up someone and help them get over a wall, or it is going to tear them down from the wall and discourage and sabotage them? Simply put, when making a decision that involves someone else, what we are going to say or do, we need to ask ourselves “Is this going to build them up or tear them down?” And then we need to act accordingly.
Everyone has “walls” to get over in life. Everyone needs people to lift them up. No one needs people to tear them down. And everyone is going to have an opportunity to be one who lifts up or who tears down. We will each be presented with that choice and often. Which will you be?
The last part of I Thessalonians 5:11 reminds us that part of encouraging is building up others. The exercise of the wall illustrates why and how building up others is needed.
Lord, there are many walls in my life (name some of them). Please put people around me who will help lift me over them. Please give me the trust to place my hands in theirs, and most especially to place my hands in Your hands. Lord, there are people around me who are struggling with their own walls. (name some of them) Help me to be a good friend, and give me the wisdom to know how to lift them and the opportunity to lift them up. Keep me away from the temptation to tear down others. Help me to be someone who lifts others. Amen.
Surround yourself with people who will lift you up. Make sure that you are someone who lifts up others. “Lift” someone today!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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