body of Christ celebrate

The Lost Art of Celebrating Others

3:47 PMHeather

I did not want to take him. He asked simply but emphatically, and I knew he genuinely wanted to go to that basketball game. 

But I didn't want to take him. Because I knew what it cost him. I knew how much he had hoped to be wearing the uniform himself. I knew the hours he had spent on the driveway, perfecting his skills. I knew his heart behind all the efforts. I knew the twisted and shameful manipulation that he had endured, from the adult in charge, who dared to tell him that if he would just "mop his floors, then I might even let you work out with the team." 

And I knew that it was all my son could do to stand up to the bully in a coaches' uniform who told him if he really loved basketball, then he'd be content being a manager. I knew how disappointed my son felt when he didn't make the team and how much he had really wanted this opportunity to play the sport he loved. I knew he had proved his work ethic to the coaches in the two years he spent lugging football equipment and doing laundry and being the last one in the locker room as a football manager.

And I knew. 

I knew what it cost him to look that man in the eye and say with as much courage as he could muster, "It's because I love basketball that I can't be your manager. Because all I really want to do is play."

So, a few days later, when he wanted me to take him to watch his friends play on the team he didn't make, my mama bear reaction was to protect and defend. Yet, I knew that I had to be at least as much of an adult as my preteen son. 

My son who genuinely wanted to go cheer on his friends because he was happy for them, and that meant putting his own feelings aside.

My son was mastering the art of celebrating others. And I take very little credit for the natural disposition in him to intuitively be able to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15, ESV).

In our culture of "looking out for number one," I believe most of us have lost our ability to cheer each other on. We've forgotten how to rejoice with those who rejoice because we are afraid they've stolen a precious commodity that we had hoped to attain.

But, here's a truth to help us right our selfish ships.

Good things are not extinct. Success is not a scarce resource that requires a Hunger Games mentality. Advancement and achievement are not so rare that we should fight over them or begrudge those who experience them.

We need not allow the happiness and success of others breed resentment and jealousy within ourselves.

The competitiveness in our culture is creating an inability to share in each other's success. Because our narcissistic "dog-eat-dog" mentality blinds us to the actual truth. 

The truth that rejoicing should be shared. The joy of our peers should be celebrated with welcoming embraces and enthusiastic, hearty, and sincere "way to go's!" 

It steals nothing from us to cheer on the achievement of others. It need not divide us, although it often does. Instead, the sheer joy of achievement can be multiplied when we can revel in the good things happening for others. After all, don't we want others to celebrate with us when things go our way?

We must remember this. We must remind ourselves, over and over again, of this truth. There's room at the table of accomplishment for everyone to partake. Pull up a chair and feast on the abundance of others, knowing there's room for your contributions as well. 

Being one who is rejoicing is not a trophy that we must fight over, for God is working in all of our lives and shows no favoritism for his sons and daughters.

We may all be part of the human race, but we are each actually running our own race. We are each uniquely gifted and talented and created. We are each called to run our unique race of faith, fixing our eyes on the Author and Perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV). 

Photo courtesy of Don McReady
(my aforementioned son, who now plays varsity soccer for his high school)

My race doesn't look like yours. Maybe you're a sprinter, and I'm a marathoner. Maybe your course is more noticeable and in the public eye, and mine is hidden in the woods of anonymity. 

The way God is writing your story will look different from mine. Yours may be hitting an exciting climax, while mine is enduring a plot twist. Yours may be a loud and beautiful poem, while mine may be a book rarely checked out of the library for public consumption.

This passage in Hebrews also says, "since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything the hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" (Hebrews 12:1). 

Jealousy can hinder us as we run our race. Self-preservation can entangle us. When we become so inwardly focused that we begrudge those who are rejoicing, we've lost a bit of our humanity and our identity as members of the same body of Christ. 

For we, the Church, are one body. We are members of the same team, and the ultimate goal is glory to God alone and making him known. How beautiful it is when we hoist someone up on the shoulders of the team and carry them of the field, cheering them on for how God has moved for them and through them. In this act of solidarity, we embody that great cloud of witnesses surrounding one another that we might all run well.

Part of our command to love one another includes the call to cheer for one another, to encourage one another, to rejoice with one another.

If we are all serving the same God and chasing the same kingdom, then our purposes are united. If we are all of the mindset of using up all our talents and time and energy to throw at the advancement of God's eternal kingdom, then we will all finish empty. And, then we will see that we need not look around at others as competition, but rather as co-laborers for the Almighty God.

What if we all rose to the occasion and challenged ourselves daily to rejoice with someone who is rejoicing? What if we sought to form a habit of living out this Biblical mandate by one day at a time, texting a congratulations to a friend whose daughter made the team? Even if yours didn't.

We can revive the lost art of celebrating others through simple acts of kindness that are bent on putting others before ourself. 

Plan a coffee date to celebrate someone's new job, even if you are still looking for one. Train your child to celebrate others by grabbing a treat for their friend who got the big award. Even if your child was hoping for it. Make a card to let someone know that you see their hard work and it encourages you.

Take your child to the game and bite back your own tears and emotions. Cheer for the boys on the court and their mamas who wanted it for their sons as much as your wanted it for yours. Don't feel threatened by what others are achieving to the point that it steals joy from you. 

Our God is bigger than that. His purposes will prevail for each of his children. His story will be written for everyone of us. Our race will be run. And in the end, none of it is about us anyway. 

For all of it is for him and his glory, alone. 

But we so easily lose sight of that, like Eve in the garden.

This is a lesson I am wrestling with myself here. I fight the desire for approval and accolades because I want to be validated. I want to be celebrated. I want to be successful. And I so easily forget my call that it's all for God's glory and not for mine. I have to be reminded that if I could rightly order my loves in life and order his glory in the position it deserves, I would quit trying to steal it for myself.

So for every glory thief out there, I offer this challenge to begin to pursue the lost art of celebrating others. 

Let's teach ourselves to cheer on others and to genuinely delight in how God is moving for them. And, let's take it one step further and teach the next generation that they can cultivate the great character trait of selflessness by sharing in the delight felt by others.

Or as is the case in my house, I actually should let the next generation teach me. 

I can load my son up in the car and put on a smile and cheer for the gains in my son's character and faith as he cheers on his friends playing the sport he loves.

After all, none of us can earn the gift and rewards of heaven. It is a free gift to us through Jesus. It is undeserved. So grace informs us that we were shown it in such bounty that we must let it overflow to others. 

Grace directs us and equips us to celebrate others. 

To cheer them on with wild enthusiasm, with sincerity of heart, and to say proudly, "This is the body of Christ. This is God's goodness to all of us."

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