Cheer me on
by Sharon Simpson
I tried to be a good cheerleader for my kids, but it wasn’t always right. One of our sons had multiple surgeries on his eyes. We were told that he would never have three-dimensional vision. Still, we put him in baseball with his brothers. He often didn’t swing at the pitch. He rarely connected the bat with the ball. I would cheer using those familiar words, “Like you can… like you can!” But, how could he? He couldn’t see the depth of distance of the ball being pitched at him. I was a bad cheerleader for my son… not sincere, a liar. And then, like a miracle, the boy began to hit homeruns. He pitched like a champion. We were shocked and thrilled.
Our daughter was a competitive swimmer. My husband was a competitive father. He ran alongside the pool beside her in her first swim meet yelling, “Don’t leave anything in the pool!”. She was eight years old. She made sure she took her cap and goggles out with her when the race was over. She didn’t know he meant energy and effort. The officials gave him a stern warning. Too much cheerleading.
Our lives are described in the Bible as a race. It can be tiring to run the race – the Christian life, especially without losing heart. We need a cheerleader.
By the time we hit middle-age, we have all discovered that our Christian brothers and sisters are imperfect. Some have hurt us deeply. We’ve found out that life’s achievements – money, prestige, power – leave an empty place in our soul. We’ve found out that we’ve wasted time, resources and energy on sidelines. We have pleaded with God to do what we want Him to do and He hasn’t. He didn’t fix, heal or come to the rescue when we really needed Him. Perhaps, in race terms, these realizations are when the runner “hits the wall” and experiences fatigue, exhaustion and loss of energy.
What does it mean to lose heart in our faith? We continue to take the steps of Christian life – attending church, listening to worship music, even reading God’s Word – but our belief is shaky. We wonder if we can make it to the finish line, we mock our aspirations to be a strong believer, we wonder if all our faithful living and giving was just a waste of effort.
We need a cheerleader and Hebrews tells us that we have not one, but an entire cloud of witnesses cheering us on. Their race is done. They are in the full glory of heaven and know that the race is worth running. We think of Moses, Elijah, Peter and Paul cheering us on. We read about their lives and the challenges they faced – crushed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. They finished the race, they fought the good fight. Well done.
I like to think about Lois and Eunice cheering me on in this great cloud of witnesses. Their grandson and son, Timothy became a missionary and pastor. All we really know about his grandmother Lois and mother, Eunice, is that Paul saw and commended the impact of their sincere faith on Timothy’s life (2 Timothy 1:5).
I would have loved Lois and Eunice. Although I know they were middle-eastern, in my imagination they are cooking up the Mennonite foods of my childhood and dishing out their faith with each bite in a warm room filled with stories, laughter and vibrant with love. Faith in Jesus was new at that time. Unusual. They took it to heart and lived it out in the daily rhythms and tasks of life in the first century. Life wasn’t easy – some scholars believe that Eunice was widowed, raising Timothy as a single-mom. Timothy took hold of their sincere faith for himself, becoming a missionary, pastor and loyal friend to the apostle Paul.
Sincere faith. That is what Paul says about Lois and Eunice. The definition of sincere is “not pretending or lying – free of deceit or hypocrisy or falseness”. In today’s terms, sincere faith is “authentic” and “grounded” and “true to themselves”.
In their sincerity, Lois and Eunice were realistic and honest about their own lives. They embraced the Gospel. They modelled their faith and worked it out in front of Timothy. These kind of people are likeable, safe, friendly, and approachable. They seem so normal. You want to be with them. No masks, no pretense, no prestige, no protocols, no offense, no rejection. They laughed at themselves. They are proof that the average person with day-to-day tasks can walk in step with the Spirit and have an enduring and eternal impact with their life. These were sincerely faith-filled women who passed along authentic faith to the next generation.
Cheer me on, great cloud of witnesses. I need to be reminded that you surround me and energize me once again to run the race with perseverance, to fix my eyes on Jesus and to not grow weary and lose heart.
Help me cheer others on by opening up my own life and stories with sincerity and authenticity, working out my own faith in front of others and inviting them to follow Jesus with me.
Sharon Simpson is the Director of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement at Menno Place in Abbotsford, BC.