Last Saturday, in the introduction to this series, we saw that we are called to be supportive of one another. This is easier to preach about then to practice, however, for many of us don’t fully understand what it means to be supportive or how to separate it from its destructive cousin, control. I was struggling with these questions at the time of our family vacation last summer, and God used the cathedrals of Northern Spain to teach me valuable lessons in supportiveness.
The first thing that amazed me as we visited these beautiful feats of architecture was their age. Though a few are more recent, some date back to the 12th and 13th centuries. This means they have passed the test of time; they have weathered the storms, the humidity and the pollution; they have withstood erosion, fire and war; and the reason they have survived is because they were designed and constructed with multiple internal and external supports. Here are just a few of the common supports used in European architecture:
* The Abutment: the reinforcing block of masonry that adds support to the great vaults and arches.
* The Arcade: a row of arches set atop columns. The term sometimes refers to the arched roof itself.
* The Hammer Beams: Right angled support beams projecting from wall tops to brace wooden roofs via vertical extensions known as hammerposts.
* The Jamb: The vertical side surface masonry of a door, window or portal entranceway.
* The Tribune: A vaulted gallery which forms or covers the ceiling of an aisle.
The list could go on, but suffice is to say, these supports literally find their way into every part of the structures.
Like the cathedrals, we also need support in every part of our lives so that we, too, can stand the tests of life. God desires to be our support, and it is for this reason that we are told to, “…be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength of his power.” (Eph. 6:10-11 NET). Unfortunately, many of those we wish to support do not believe in God, and are, therefore, cut off from this ultimate in support. Those of us who believe have access to God’s strength and support; however, we tend to not fully trust His power to sustain us in hard times. We often don’t heed His words of wisdom; we usually don’t allow Him to guide us; and overall, our faith is weak. As a result, even those of us who believe in God often live without our intended support network. This is why we are told to: “…encourage one another and build up each other…” (1 Thes. 5:11 NET), and to: “…pray at all times in the Spirit…with all perseverance and requests for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:18 NET). It is our job to love them enough to be there for them, no matter what, for if we do not support them, they will not stand.
But we are only human beings. We are not pillars and buttresses of stone. Just what does being supportive mean in terms of human relationships?
My first stop in answering this question was the dictionary, and here is what I found. Support: to bear all or part of the weight; to hold something up; to give assistance to; to enable to function or act.
In order to have a clearer meaning, my next stop was the thesaurus to find other words that might be similar. Support: hold up, bear, carry, prop up, keep up, brace, shore up, underpin, buttress, reinforce, undergird, help, aid, assist, maintain, keep and subsidize.
Finally, since it’s always easier to understand a concept by looking at its opposite meaning, my last stop in my search of a definition for “support” was again the thesaurus, for antonyms this time: disapproval, frustration, opposition, stop, and discouragement.
Where do these definitions teach us?
That in order to be properly supportive of those we care about in life, we need to carry, prop up, brace and reinforce them; we need to help and assist them; we must be to them pillars, props, crutches and braces; and we must contribute to their maintenance, their keep and their sustenance. Finally, in order to be supportive, we must also keep from being sources of frustration, opposition and discouragement, and we must not be disapproving.
That, friends, is how we can be the abutments, the arcades, the hammer beams, the jambs and the tribunes to those we love. The problem is, just how does one go about holding up, carrying, bracing, reinforcing and assisting those we wish to support, without frustrating, opposing and discouraging them?
Join us next time for “CATHEDRALS! Lessons on Being Supportive, Part 2: The Sagrada Familia
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the entire “Cathedrals! Lessons on Being Supportive” mini-series, Click here.)