Alongside

My job is to raise people’s spirits through writing their words.

I artistically represent the spoken content in meetings. Because I usually capture proprietary information in corporate sessions, sharing samples is verboten. But this week is different.

My son works at a small, Christian liberal arts college in Virginia. When I found out that he had been asked to help organize a two-day conference to address some of the challenges the school faces, I volunteered my talents. I’m proud of my son and the work that he does. This is a simple way to support him. To come alongside.

More and more, I think of what I do as a way to encourage people in organizations. For instance, this event started with people rotating around to four quadrants of tables, organized by these four themes. As they wrote their thoughts on the paper tablecloths, I wandered around to find content to add to these posters I had titled in advance.

Their ideas, celebrated.

In Exodus 17, Moses needed someone to come alongside. He needed a literal lift – not a lift of his spirit, but of his hands. As the Israelites battled an enemy beneath him, Moses raised his staff. When it was held high, the people succeeded. When it sagged, they struggled. So two men, Aaron and Hur (the grandfather of Bezalel, the artist who crafted the tabernacle) stood next to him and held up his hands until the battle was won.

In the struggles faced by clients I visually support, nobody dies. (Thank goodness!) But the organization’s health and longevity are often at stake. Sometimes I feel like Aaron or Hur, helping to hold up the shared vision so that the people can succeed.

In one session this week, a group of faculty members discussed how their Christian tradition should be communicated to an increasingly polarized world. As I listened and wrote, I thought of my own struggle to be open about my faith, particularly in the corporate arena, where to be a follower of Christ is seen to be an irrelevant quirk at best, a narrow-minded hating at worst.

That’s why we need the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16, Jesus promises that the Father, at his request, will give us another Advocate – literally, one who comes alongside. The Spirit will bring us truth and will reside forever with us. And he celebrates words – taking what he hears from the Father and speaking it to us (John 16:13).

He is the one who lifts our weary hands, who bolsters our flagging vision, who writes the very words of God on the canvas of our minds and hearts.

Come to think of it, he’s pretty adept at illustrations, too.

Father, thank you for sending us the Spirit to encourage us and guide us into the truth. Help us, in turn, to encourage others around us, to be the support they need as they face real struggles. Help us to come alongside them, to point them to you.

Readers: How has someone encouraged or supported you this week?

Tell me about it.

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Bruce Van Patter

As a freelance illustrator, graphic recorder, and author, Bruce is on a lifelong journey to delight in the handiwork of the Creator. And he’s always ready for fellow travelers.

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