the importance of cheerleaders
I was in Ceres, California last Monday when I heard Glenn Frey had passed away. And the mental collision was so real.
I did two years of high school in that town. And one of those years, I tried out for cheerleading.
We had to do a yell routine, of course, and I was astonishingly not good at that part. But I was even worse at the dance routine — which was “The Heat is On” sung by Glenn Frey. It’s been 30 years, but I can still dance the first sets of beats.
These moves have provided endless entertainment for my family and a few select friends over the years. I’m sure I remember them so well because it is the only dance routine I ever learned… Our cheerleaders at Ceres High School were awesome dancers. And I was an awesome, rhythmless, regular Baptist.
(Oh, BTW, my sincere apologies to the friends I would have loved to see in California, but it was a whirlwind one-day visit for my Grandma’s 90th birthday. Go Grandma!!! *insert pom pom shake here*)
I always wanted to be a cheerleader. I love, love, love synchronization. Whether it’s dance moves, or coordinating colors, or plot lines. It’s all so lovely to watch. Movement, staging, timing = favorite things.
When I think about why cheerleading was so hard for me (high school was not my first attempt to make the squad), I can acknowledge now that, in addition to being terribly uncoordinated, I’ve always been too self-conscious. There’s a certain amount of just going for it that a person needs in order to cheer well.
But, I’m getting pretty decent at cheering from the sidelines these days — as long as I keep it under a certain decibel. My yell is weird. And sort of screamy. The voice comes out not at all what I imagine it to be in my head. Something about watching my babies do stuff out there just makes me lose my self-consciousness and yell out their names. Which they just LOVE!
As much as they may hate it in the moment, they will remember mom (and dad) shouting praises from the sidelines for the rest of their lives.
Because praise, encouragement, cheer… everyone needs this. Everyone.
In fact, nothing simultaneously makes me angry and breaks my heart more than hearing parents yell from the sidelines in angry, disgusted tones at their kids. I’ve been at games where I wanted to tell some parents to GO HOME. I cannot imagine listening to anything more discouraging than your voice. Your baby has run 18 miles today in the blazing sun. Give him a break!
All of us need cheerleaders. We do. Especially at critical points of life when discouragement clings to you, sucks you in, and threatens to drown you like quicksand.
I’ve been reading “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker and in one chapter she puts on her old cheerleader voice to tell her readers some things. I needed to read this pep talk and maybe you do, too.
Here’s what she said that just lifted me right out of my pajamas, into the shower to ponder, and back into my bathrobe (keepin it real here) to write this post:
We will cheer each other on, refusing to speak doubt into our gifts. When you are scared, I will declare, ‘You can do this.’ When you whisper a dream, I’ll holler through a bullhorn that you are brave and wonderful and important! When I am beaten down, you will remind me that I am an approved worker with no shame….Let’s do this. Let’s fulfill the good work we’ve been commissioned to. Silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker. You are. Jesus made you so. If God surveyed the cross and declared it finished, then it wasn’t sufficient for everyone but you. If Jesus covered it all, then He covered it all….If you need to deal, then deal…Forgive, release, acknowledge, confront, feel the feelings, let something go, believe the truth, whatever you need to do. Then dust your hands off and get ready to go….This really is your one wild and precious life. You matter so much. You are writing a good story for your children. Your community and church need you, your neighbors and family need you, God adores you and Jesus is obsessed with you. Here we are, your community of women running this race together, proud of you, moved by you.
-Jen Hatmaker, For the Love
I need people in my life who cheer for me. My husband, my kids, relatives — they do an amazing job at this. And oh how I love my dear friends who speak even the smallest words of encouragement to me. Friends who believe I can. And should.
I’ve got enough negative words in my own head about myself. I don’t need more. You don’t need more. We’re stuck in an ugly, losing game sometimes. Heckled by our own hearts.
Maybe you feel beaten down and discouraged, too. Maybe you don’t have cheerleaders in your life, or your cheerleaders are fighting their own battles. Maybe you need to do what I’m going to do and Stuart Smalley that quote from Jen Hatmaker right onto your bathroom mirror and “silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker.”
And if you’re dealing with a husband, wife, child who is struggling with addiction (or anything else for that matter) take some time to think about your role in their life.
Are you the voice on the sidelines (maybe you need to get back to the sidelines) calling out every wrong move, every failed attempt when they’re fighting to get on their feet? Or do you cheer them on toward victory?
Cheering on someone you love through recovery takes selflessness and patience. We have to set aside our uncertainties, insecurities, fears and allow hope to fill us and give us grace and encouraging words. And pray for wisdom. Lots and lots of wisdom.
I suppose the same is true for any relationship, really.
* * * * *
Who in your life needs your words of encouragement? A child, a spouse, a pastor, a friend?
Sometimes, you just need to go for it.
But maybe not with pom poms.
…encourage one another and build each other up…
1 Thessalonians 5:11