Years back, during my medical school days, my attention was drawn to a magnificient potrait bearing the picture of a man on a professorial regalia, standing on a small table beside the entrance to the main theatre. I drew nearer to the portrait, my eyes fixed on it, wondering what the occasion was. Then a book in front of the portrait caught my eyes. Peering at it for a while, I discovered what book it was – a book of condolences. Then the occassion dawned on me – the professor was late.
In a bid to satisfy my curiosity, I flipped through the pages of this book. I had never been through one before. What sought of things were written in such a book? A book for the dead? Did the dead need a book? Or was it for his family members? I began skimming through it. “I dearly miss the professor. He was such a warm person… – Dr Ibe” “… His smiles took away depression. He always found a way to get through to you. We’ve lost a great gem. – Mrs F. S. Adeleke” “He was my teacher. And much more, a father. He was a giver to the core. His kindness is unparalleled. Prof, you left too soon – A. S. Ojo” And the accolades went on and on. This man must have been a great person of impact, I thought. For not only did he reach the pinnacle of academic pursuit, but he broke through to the innermost depth of people’s heart. I concluded.
As I walked away from the table buried in my thoughts, the Holy Spirit said to me, “I wished they said those things they wrote to him while he was yet alive, he may have lived longer.” I stopped suddenly, startled. What the Holy Spirit had just said was the whole truth. And this would lead me to a train of thoughts.
We seldom speak words of affirmation to those around us. Words like “Well done”, “You’re doing great”, “You look good”, “That was so kind of you”, “Thank you”, the list being endless. We assume our love ones know we appreciate and acknowledge who they are, and the good they do. But they want to hear us say them.
I can recall the awkwardness that filled the atmosphere when I got home, and for the first time told my sister, “I love you!” She didn’t know how to respond, because she was surprised. But as seconds passed, I saw her expression change. She felt good. She felt loved. Not just because she assumed I did loved her, but especially because she heard me say it.
In Judges six eleven, we find Gideon who was to be appointed by God to lead Israel against the Midianites, at a winepress threshing wheat. When I first read there, I wondered if the winepress was the right place to thresh wheat. Then I found out why he did that in the same scripture – to hide it from the Midianite. He was indeed timid. So it was surprising when the angel of God in his salutation called him a mighty man of valor. Valor ko, valley ni. But as I read on, I understood why he called Gideon by that appellation. He saw into the future and called those things that be not, as though they were. He had one intent – to affirm and encourage Gideon.
Joshua was overwhelmed at the start of his ministry in Joshua chapter one. Moses had just died and he had to step in practically into Moses’ shoe. It was in this moment that God said to him, “… be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged…” Now, those were words of affirmation. Those were words that lifted the soul of Joshua and spurred him on to the massacre he later unleased on the Canaanites.
If God spoke these words of affirmation and reassurance to Gideon and Joshua, and other men and women He walked with, then we can’t do otherwise. He expects us to extend His hand of comfort to others. He wants us to show gratitude to our love ones and every one around us. He wants us to remind those around us of their worth and purpose.
When last did you tell your mum and dad that you love them? Parent, when last did you appreciate your kids? Employer, have you told that employee of yours how hardworking he is, and how you trust him? Or are you waiting till when he quits his job out of frustration? Church leader, have you commended that committed member of yours? Are words like “thank you” alien to your vocabulary?
Why wait till their funeral before letting out those sweet words? Why starve that love one of yours the merriment that sweet soothing words do to the heart? Why not decide that you would daily be of value to those around you, by spurring them towards their purpose with your words.
The words of the pure are pleasant words (Proverbs 15:16). You are God’s righteousness. You are the pure. Let others hear those pleasing words. Words of affirmation. Let them hear it now. And not at their graveyards.