Snapshots of Life

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Garment of Praise

It's been over two months since my last post. I guess I haven't had anything profound to say. I have thought quite a bit about this year, which of course, is now well under way. Sometimes as I look over my life I feel like I have digressed. I don't know if that really is the case, I sure hope it's not anyway. But, at times it seems there have been periods of my life when I was more generous and giving of myself, more faith-filled, more humble, and more charitable than I am now. This year, in my own personal endeavors and in our family, we have decided to really focus on becoming the kind of people we want to be, with a few of the things I just mentioned in mind.

Several weeks ago in Sunday School we were discussing the Savior's declaration of His messianic mission to the people of his native Nazareth. It is a familiar passage. Jesus quoted from the words of Isaiah and then proclaimed to his fellow worshippers that on that day the scripture had been fulfilled. As part of our discussion we turned to Isaiah 61, where we read the words of the messianic prophecy in their fullness straight from the mouth of Isaiah. One of the phrases tucked within those poetic verses caught my attention and caused me to ponder. The Messiah, it is promised, along with healing the broken-hearted and liberating the captives, will give "the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness". What a beautiful statement!

I once sat in an Institute class in which one of the class members was a former gymnast. She was paralyzed from the waist down following an accident during a gymnastics routine in a college competition. A video had been produced about her - by the Church I believe - and the instructor of the course was familiar with it. The teacher showed us the video, which concluded with the woman's inspiring testimony. When the film ended the class spontaneously arose and gave her a standing ovation. It was an electrifying moment. The class then grew quiet and the instructor spoke. He said, in effect, that he believed if a movie were to be made about each individual life in the classroom there would likely be many standing ovations.

Often extraordinary struggles and victories are very quiet, never making the evening news or the latest blog post. Fortunately, we have the Master Healer, the Eternal Judge who in the midst of such circumstances offers to clothe us in the garment of praise. Though unseen by the world, such a garment is of eternal value to the recipient. Most do not live their lives with only the pursuit of praise as their goal, but most would agree that receiving commendation from time to time is needed and appreciated. Ultimately, the only praise that matters is His praise. Nevertheless, if I want to pattern my life after His, I think it is appropriate to develop the capacity and the gift to offer praise as kindly, as quickly, and as generously to my fellowman as He does. Too often, I'm afraid, I am sewing cloaks of criticism in my heart rather than garments of praise. In the arrogance of my mind I have a closet full of such cloaks. The garments of praise that I do create, too frequently go ungiven.

What makes us so hesitant to praise our brother or our sister? Why do we so easily hold back in pride or embarrassment? I do at least. But this, I will change!

Over the next several weeks I would like to try an experiment on my blog. We will see if time will allow it. I would like to use my blog as a venue to give the garment of praise. I will focus on some of the people in my life who have had a profound impact on me and/or my family. Of course the number of people is countless and it would be impossible to address them all. I plan to address groups of people defined by periods/stages of my life, or by shared events/circumstances.

I have debated within myself the wisdom and propriety of this type of blogging. First, obviously the best way to offer sincere praise is in private. Perhaps the most meaningful way to do this would be through intimate conversations and personal thank you cards, and I'd like to do more of that too. But I also think there is an appropriate place for public commendation. I believe we can all learn from the ways in which people touch other people's lives. I will not share anything that is too personal for this setting. Second, it is always dangerous to name names. Inevitably someone is hurt or offended that their name didn't get mentioned, or that they perceive the comments directed to them to be shorter or less meaningful than for someone else. My hope is that this effort will be encouraging and edifying, not upsetting. Again, there is no way that I can mention everyone. If I happen not to mention one of the handful of people who follow this blog (quite unlikely since I think it's mostly my family and a couple of close friends) I express my love and appreciation. I would ask that you join me in celebrating the goodness of others without any interpretation of either receiving a slight from me or of not having significant impact on me to merit mention - neither of which would be true.

Now I just hope that I can start this before another two months pass by!