20140411_DeidraRiggs_Significance

“…Moses’ hands got tired. So they got a stone and set it under him. He sat on it and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on each side. So his hands remained steady until the sun went down.” Exodus 17:12 

In high school, I was a cheerleader.

I also ran on the track team. I was fast, and sprints were my thing. One time, in practice, I beat the men’s record time for the 220 yard dash (which, in modern days, is now called, simply, the 200 meter). My time back then wouldn’t even qualify me for the 400 meter run these days, but—back in the 1980s—I was considered an athlete. In track and field, that is.

Cheerleading was never considered a sport. Maybe it was the skirts that threw people off. But, let me tell you, being a cheerleader is every bit as athletic and important as running the 4 by 100 meter relay. Each summer, just like the soccer team, we rose early in the morning to make our way to practice before heading out to our summer jobs. We rehearsed and trained and worked hard at our sport, and we learned teamwork along the way. We knew the rules of each sport for which we cheered, and we invested in the success of our team as if we were holding the line ourselves. When our team won, we celebrated their success. And when they lost, we carried the burden, right along with the players.

These days, I push myself to knock out a couple of miles on the treadmill each day. It’s nowhere near athletic, but I’m hoping it keeps my heart healthy, and I know it helps clear my mind. And, I’m still a cheerleader.

In fact, I think cheering may be one of my spiritual gifts. 

I take great pleasure in watching my family and friends see their dreams come true. It’s as if their dreams become mine, and my investment in them is real and significant. Their dreams take up residence in my heart. I cheer and do cartwheels when they succeed, and I cry and pray and feel disappointment for them when roadblocks stand in their way.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you find great pleasure in cheering the success of others. Or, maybe you find yourself frustrated with a role that many consider a non-sport. You wonder why God seems to have called you to the sidelines, instead of the main stage, or center court, or center field. Maybe you’re restless, and wishing for a record-breaking sprint across the finish line, with people on their feet in the stands, cheering for you.

Take heart, girlfriend! In God’s great manuscript, there is no such thing as “sidelines.” Every single role, every season, every assignment matters, and has great significance in the Kingdom of God.

Last month, I sat in the audience at the Refresh My Heart Conference, as my friend, Michelle, read from her new book, Spiritual Misfit. This book is the culmination of a seven-year journey to publication. Along the way, she has had major setbacks and disappointments, but I always knew this book was meant to be. It has been my great honor to serve as Michelle’s cheerleader on this journey.

So, last month, sitting in that audience, listening to Michelle read real pages from the actual book she held in her hands, and hearing the crowd around me laugh at all the right places, and then become silent as the message hit home? Well, I could not stop weeping, sitting there in my chair in the ballroom of that conference center. When Michelle finished speaking, she sold out of the supply of books she’d brought to the conference. In fact, she says, she went back to the book table to find a pile of money on the table, and all of the books gone!

I could not have been more proud, more happy, more giddy with joy! And, what a gift to have been a witness to such a moment!

Like Moses, every person needs an Aaron and Hur. Sometimes, we get to be Moses, and other times we get to be—yes, get to be—the ones helping to carry the load. I imagine that scene at the battlefield wasn’t a quiet one. I imagine Aaron and Hur shouting words of encouragement and affirmation for Moses—cheering him on—as they stood there, successfully helping to carry him, and the people of God, to the end of the battle. We know how the battle ends, and we know this was no “side show.” We know how important it was that Aaron and Hur were there to take their places on the so-called sidelines.

There is nothing quite like savoring a dream come true on behalf of a friend. Nothing like watching them cross the finish line—battle weary and out of breath. Nothing like being the one to offer a cool drink of water, a hug, and, sometimes even a cartwheel. There is nothing quite like being a cheerleader in the Body of Christ.

  • Do you have the spiritual gift of cheerleading? Tell us about a time you were able to cheer for a friend as her dream came true.
  • Has God given you cheerleaders in your life? Tell us how they help keep your dream alive.

PS: Michelle’s book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith,
releases Tuesday, and is available for purchase, here. Yay!

{Image by Scott Hansen, used with permission.}

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  1. 1

    Such affirming words. And such an important place, yes. Might we rest in knowing the importance of space. Amen, sister.

    • 2

      I mean “place”. :)

      • 3

        Ah, but I think you may be on to something with the idea of space…making space for acknowledging the significance of every single role we’re called to play, in every single season of life. I like it!

  2. 4

    Deidra,
    Good morning from one cheerleader to another. I wore the skirt back then, but I still carry the pom poms. I’ve cheered my two children on in everything from sporting events to recovering from broken hearts. I have also really seen how God has used my pain (ie: divorce) to enable me to empathize and encourage others on who are going through similar pain – particularly divorce where abuse was involved. I never would have imagined myself “cheerleading” in this particular way. I rejoiced with my one friend who got a job after being told she’d never do well in anything. You’re right; we all need cheerleaders and I think we are all gifted by our experiences to be able to cheer others on when called, by God, to do so. Thanks for cheering us on, Deidra!
    Blessings,
    Bev

    • 5

      Nothing is lost on God, is it? He is able to reach into our darkest experiences and bring something good from them. Your comment brings this to mind: “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.” (II Corinthians 1:3-4, MSG)

      From one cheerleader to another—thanks for cheering me on! :)

  3. 6
    Sarah S says:

    I think I really needed to hear this. In fact, I’m going to go back and read it again. I am working to restart my life after some health difficulties brought me to a stand still and while I know God is calling me to be still, go slow, and focus on loving my husband…I still struggle with the feeling that He’s placed me on the sidelines and I’m watching life go by. In my head I know that the most important roll a wife can have to honor the Lord in her life is to be submissive to her husband. It’s number one. It’s in my head. I practice it. But, the head knowledge and practice hasn’t made it into my heart yet. Thanks for sharing your cheer leading story.

    • 7
      Sarah S says:

      “Their dreams take up residence in my heart.”
      I love this…Dear Lord, please help my husbands dreams to take up residence in my heart. Help me to be the cheer leader he needs me to be and please let me find fulfillment in living out your will for my life. I know this is what you’ve called me to, help me to do this wholeheartedly. Thank you for the ministry of In Courage and all these women sharing their stories to reach others for you. In Jesus name, Amen

      • 8

        Sarah S, without knowing your full story, let me just say that my prayer would be for complete unity in your marriage. I also pray for the cheerleaders in your life, who have your back, and who believe in you. I pray that you would be overwhelmed by a sense of the great love our Father has for you, and that you hear his cheers for you. Grace always…

  4. 9

    Hi Deidra, that was beautiful. I cheer and cheer for people and sometimes I feel like it doesn’t matter. But once in awhile they’ll have a big breakthrough, and that shows me that God was working all along. Why I forget that sometimes, I don’t know. But you’re right. Everything matters. Thanks for the encouragement today.

    • 10

      Let me be your cheerleader today, Jamie. Yes! It matters. Your cheers make a difference. Every breakthrough—big or small—is significant and meaningful. And, even when the breakthroughs don’t come, or are not visible to us, the cheering still makes a difference…first in our own hearts. Cheer on, girlfriend! Cheer on!

  5. 11
    ro elliott says:

    Hey there Deidra… you and me… the same high school experience… and I use to want to hide the fact I was a cheerleader… but people still say you must have been a cheerleader… I finally started to see how this was part of who God made me… my first glimpse is when my hubby ran a marathon… we followed him around to cheer him on… but I found myself… cheering just as hard for others who were struggling along as well… now that I know … this is how God wants me to move in this world… I now own my cheerleader status :) And what a joy to walk along side someone’s long journey to freedom… cheering… both silently and out loud for them. God has brought a friend alongside me right now… who is cheering me to places my feet don’t natural want to walk. love this encouragement … thanks for cheering us on!!!

    • 12

      What a lovely description of cheering for your husband!

      Each year, our little town hosts a marathon run through the streets of the city. The entire city practically closes down: roads are closed, church services are shifted, and 10,000 runners descend on our town for the event. I don’t think I’ll ever run a marathon, or even a half-marathon. I’m more of a 5K kind of girl. But, I find great joy in standing by the side of the road, cheering for complete strangers. Watching them run is an incredible source of inspiration for me. Each year, after the marathon is over, I notice an increased confidence in my own ability to tackle a task that may have seemed daunting before the race. So, in some beautiful exchange, those of us on the sidelines seem mystically connected to one another—cheering each other on by default.

  6. 13
    Brittany says:

    Thanks for this post, Deidra.

    I really needed this reminder today. I’ve always been a cheerleader for my husband and son. We recently had a new baby and I feel that I’ve been so busy that I’ve quit “cheerleading”. This was a gentle reminder from God that although I have new responsibilities, I need to get back up there and cheer for my boys!!

    • 14

      Being a mother to a newborn is quite a big job and requires a little bit of time on the receiving end on the cheers. So…YAY, you! Congratulations on doing on the stuff to get a baby—a new human being!—here into this world of ours! God bless your family as you welcome this precious addition, and peace to you through the changes it brings. There will be plenty of time for cheering. In the meantime, I am cheering for YOU!

  7. 15

    What an incredible article. Yes, I have ladies in my life who speak a word in season as I journey. So many times just at the right time, their cheers come! It’s exciting when God places happy, smiling cheerleaders along the path! Thank you for writing!

    • 16

      I’m so glad you’ve got great cheerleaders in your life!

      Right now, I’m in training for a 5K that I’ll run in just a couple of weeks. When I’m on the treadmill, I imagine the people on the sidelines at the actual race, cheering on the crowd of runners. Even in training, it’s the cheerleaders who get me across the finish line.

  8. 17

    Hi there Diedra.
    So glad to visit with you today. Thank you for your words of encouragement. They are of great value. Just to know someone is in your corner makes a difference.
    Have you ever heard of Henrietta Mears? Maybe not. She was a cheer leader for some of the most influential Christians of our time. Say her name to Billy Graham and he will tell you wonderful memories of her. Read the stories of Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ) and you will find her there too. Sneak a peek into the lives of the late Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. You will find her. She was known by them as “The Teacher.” She was the power house behind the Sunday School Movement in the United States. They say she was truly one of the great women of the twentieth century. She was a cheerleader.
    Let’s hear it for the cheerleaders!

    • 18

      Henrietta Mears sounds like a woman I would want to know. Thanks so much for sharing her example here. Out of the spotlight, but still so effective in her role. I admire that. What confidence she must have had in her position in Christ, to be able to work so tirelessly behind the scenes. Wow.

  9. 19

    I wish I had been in that audience too! I’m so happy to cheer Michelle on alongside you:)

    Thanks for being a cheerleader and advocate for me too, Deidra. It’s made all the difference, and I thank God for you!

    • 20

      Oh, yes! I am cheering for you, too, Kimberly! So glad for the honor of watching from the sidelines as God opens up doors for you! Whoo-hoo!

  10. 21

    Well I’m just a big fat disaster of a puddly mess reading this, Deidra. Thank you for being my Aaron and my Hur. Thank you for praying for me, for screaming with joy into the phone when I called to tell you the manuscript had sold (and you were the second person I called, right after my husband, who didn’t answer!!). Thank you for cheering, for telling me I could do it, even when the road was windy and hilly and there were rocks in my sneakers. You are THE best cheerleader ever, hands down. Man, God is so, so good to me, giving me YOU.

    • 22
      LaVon Baker says:

      Me, too! Michelle! What a blessing Diedra is to you and vice versa.

      Thank you, Diedra, for being such an awesome cheerleader for Michelle. Even though we have no idea where we connect back down the DeRusha line, I still feel like she is one of my own and I love and appreciate you for being there for her through it all. Wish I could hug you both right now!!

    • 23

      Love you, Michelle! I ca hardly wait for what comes next!!!

  11. 25

    Love love love this! Sometimes it’s hard to remember that “sideline” jobs are just as important! One of my best Cheerleaders is my beautiful, awesome, wonderful 21 year old daughter! She has the gift of encouragement, and know how/when to cheer and when to push to motivate you. She is also, interestingly enough, a Cheerleader on her college team and is one of the bases -even though she’d rather fly – and is known for being the motivator on her College Volleyball team as well. I can’t thank God enough for her or for the other ladies he’s placed in my life to cheer me on!

    • 26

      My daughter was a cheerleader in college, too. A base, who wanted to fly. Isn’t that something? There was no flying happening back in the days when I was a cheerleader, but I think I probably would have wanted to fly, too.

  12. 27

    Teary as I read through this while remembering that moment with Michele at the conference…one of my favorite memories from that weekend.
    I have cheered and I have been cheered on. You’ve cheered for me Deidra and your words have not left me. It’s the encouraging words through my girlfriends that keep me moving towards God.
    I too love seeing my girlfriends live out their God-sized dreams. ♥

    • 28

      I know! Wasn’t that awesome?!?! And you, with your conference dream-come-true! Wow! What a thrill to be part of that!

      Lelia, you’re one of the best cheerleaders I know! So glad our paths have crossed, and that we get to share this life together.

  13. 29

    When you know nothing can keep Gods promise from reaching you…that a blessing exists with your name on it…it’s easy to work on the sidelines. It’s just hard to remember sometimes. So this post is perfectly timed Deidra! Let’s all receive it. I am Gods cheerleader. I love to help hold the dreams of friends and no one will scream louder than me when that dream is birthed. I’m also grateful for the women who fill this role in my life…sending warrior loves and hugs when I need them most.

    • 30

      Lisha, you always make such great points, girlfriend. Yes. The foundation is, of course, our understanding of our standing in Christ. And it is hard to remember. Thanks for the reminder to begin—every time—with Jesus. And, to always “Go With God.” I’m so grateful for you. More than you know.

  14. 31

    So blessed to watch you all from the sidelines and cheer you on. It does a heart good to come alongside and experience the journey with you. Deidra – I was a cheerleader too. I think I might have overdone that cheering thing when I cost the team 2 points. But my heart was all in. And so it is with you dreamers and cheerleaders. My heart is all in. I am so happy for Michelle and I just think this book should be read by everyone because all could use another cheerleader on our team. I can’t stop laughing and I finished the book over a week ago.

    • 32

      I think, one day, we should create an (in)courage cheerleading squad! Look at all the “former” cheerleaders, chiming in here! Kelly, it does not surprise me to learn you were a cheerleader. As I’ve told you in person, you are one of the most encouraging people I know. Although, now I want to hear the story about how you cost your team two points! ;)

  15. 33
    Paula Gamble says:

    Deidra, I can hear your voice through these words! You are a cheerleader to me, too! Thank you for believing in people and the dreams God places in their hearts – none too small. I remember feeling like I didn’t have a dream, but you told me even if your dream is just making it through another day, that is enough. That helped me so much! Taking life one day at a time and learning to live in Him – that’s enough for me for now, and you helped me to rest in that. I love you, Deidra! I’m so thankful God put you in my life! Keep running and keep cheering! I’m running with you and cheering you on too!

    • 34

      Knowing you’re running with me and cheering for me makes me smile, Paula! Especially since I am quite sure I could never keep up with you in an actually road race. You are FIERCE, my friend! So very beautiful, and so very fierce, in all the best and most stunning ways. I am so enamored of you and your desire to follow Jesus, just as you are. You inspire me, Paula. You do.

  16. 35

    Hello Deidra,

    I want you to know that I love your writing style. I love that you used Bible truths as metaphors for today. I can relate to this way of thinking and it’s one of my favorite writing styles to read. I’m thankful that the Lord placed this on your heart. What a blessing…. :)

    Blessings on you,
    Rocio :)

    • 36

      I wish I had the words to tell you just how much this comment has blessed me. Thank you, Rocio. From the bottom of my heart.

  17. 37

    {Melinda} What a great post. My best friend and I have the thrill and privilege to release our first book this coming January. God has given us to each other as support and to cheerlead along the way. I am SO grateful for that. A dream come true.

    • 38

      Melinda! A book launch! What an adventure! Congratulations to you both! Praying for your peace in the process, and trusting God to deliver your words to the people who need them most. Thank you for writing, and for releasing your words into the world.

  18. 39

    Dear Aaron,
    Some call you Deidra, some call you friend. Many call you blessed and He calls you His. Mountain of Strength and writer who moves into spaces of real and encouragement, who goes “there” and stays present, thank you for this post. Cheer the cheerleaders on, so devoted to you living your purpose!
    Sincerely,
    This observer

    • 40

      “His.” If that’s all I’m ever called, that will so much more than my wildest dreams. Thanks, Nasreen. You know you have my heart, right?

  19. 41

    Yes. Yes. I love all of this. And your relationship, Deidra and Michelle, stands as an example of what friendship is meant to be. Love you, ladies!

  20. 43

    Golly, (yes, I just wrote golly),
    I relate to so much of your post Deidra.
    I ran the 100 and the 220…yes, yardage dates us all.
    I was a long jumper and a cheerleader as well.
    I know I have been a cheerleader to other but right this very moment,
    I am so thankful for the cheerleaders who have come alongside me lately when I have felt like I should assign a zip code to my bleacher on the sidelines.
    I think of the cheerleader as one who is also practicing right alongside the team.
    They know the sweat of each teammate.
    My cheerleaders have all the inside info that the casual spectator isn’t privy to.

    So many of your lovely friends’ books have been landing on my porch bench and
    Michelle’s is due next week as well.
    Thanks for sharing about the importance of raising our arms and pom poms for one another.
    It makes our journeys so much richer to be shared in celebration.
    The reminder of not rejecting the value of whatever position we find ourselves dwelling in
    currently is crucial to contentment.
    Thank you!

    • 44

      Reading that Michelle’s book is on its way to you made me tear up just a little bit. It’s such a good book. Seriously.

      Wow, such great insights into the role of a cheerleader! Thank you for sharing this wisdom, and for adding even more richness to the role. I’m praying you feel an incredible sense of God’s favor toward you, as you take a breather on the bleachers, in your very own ZIP code. :) There is a time and a place for rest, too. A time to store up energy and to be quiet. That, too, is significant, and not one moment is too big for God to handle.

  21. 45

    Gawwww, I just loved this so much. And then reading through the comments and seeing what it looks like for women to rally for each other. To place their dreams in one another’s hands and speak brave and beautiful things and remind each other who loved us and called us first. It’s just amazing and I’m so blessed to be the recipient of so many of your cheers and I’m beyond honored to do the same for my sisters and friends who are living out their roles in this kingdom work whatever they might look like. I was never a cheerleader because I couldn’t even master a cartwheel but I’ll cheer every time for one of my sisters. Always. Love you, Deidra.

  22. 46

    I LOVE this! I was a cheerleader in high school and you have made me realize that I continue to be. I never equated it with a gifting. This makes it so much more fun! Thank you and have a great weekend.

  23. 47

    You pinpointed one of the glorious privileges of the Christian Sisterhood: “Sometimes, we get to be Moses, and other times we get to be—yes, get to be—the ones helping to carry the load.” It is indeed a privilege to participate with God, as an encourager and support, in his blessing of another life. Thank you, Deidra, for affirming the cheerleaders, for helping us realize the value and importance of our role.

  24. 48

    What a beautiful spirit you have Deidra. It is definitely a gift to be the cheerleader while others are living out their dreams. It isn’t always easy – especially when we have dreams of our own that seem to be, at the very least, on hold. But once done with a true heart, it is just as you have said. It brings joy.
    I remember cheering and praying for you when you were planning your retreat. It was my joy so see the dream come true. All the more so because you give so much of yourself to so many others. It is the very best of things that we get to do both!

  25. 49

    I love hearing beautiful stories on friendships. Especially stories like this. Lovely!

  26. 50

    Yes! Yes! and Yes! “In fact, I think cheering may be one of my spiritual gifts.” I have said almost the exact same thing recently. I DO feel like God is calling me to be a cheerleader. A friend suffering depression…I’ve prayed and cried to God for her and daily walked beside her and LORD willing she is starting to see the Light…I’ve come into community with others who are finding their place and their way with new books and blogging accomplishments and I feel like I’m called to spur them on…and others are doing the same for me in the start of this new journey I’m on. I love being a cheerleader (even though I never was a cheerleader). I believe God is preparing fertile ground to learn to revel in my sisters accomplishments and be “ok” if I never get where they are but help them get there. Thanks for these words tonight…I love hearing another sister who is on the “sidelines” but NOT on the “sidelines.” :)

  27. 51

    Great post about cheerleading other people on in life. Deidra! Years ago when I was in college, I helped a girlfriend in a competition. I gave her ideas to help her out since she’d not done anything like it. I was in the competition as well. Well, my friend wound up winning! I was so happy for her even though I didn’t win but had a good time. I always loved the Miss America pageant and entered a year earlier in a local contest. That’s how I had a bit of experience and was able to help my friend. Life is helping others, encourage someone that you meet, stranger or friend. A calling from God to be his witnesses and bring other people into that light and life.

  28. 52

    Thank you so much for writing this article. It is so poignant to me right now. I’m thankful for the cheerleading friends I have had a long my journey into my gifting the last year but also want to be available and ready at all times when my friends need me to do the same for them. thank you God for friendships…they are so rich when You are central in them. Beautiful x

  29. 53

    I have such great cheerleaders in my life :) . I’m a writer, of sorts, writing for my MOPS newsletter and my blog, but my friends dream bigger than that for me. Every time there’s a writing contest my friend Brianna tells me about it and encourages me to enter. Her confidence in me is the best cheerleading ever!!

    • 54

      Mandy, you are blessed, I have one of those two, well actually more than one. It’s so important to have those dear ones cheering you on, believing in you even when you don’t believe so much in yourself!

  30. 55

    I tried to be a cheerleader, but no matter how hard I stretched I couldn’t do the splits. So I gave it up and joined the basketball team instead. And the volleyball team, the softball team, and the track team. I learned to run and play hard, but cheering on others wasn’t a strong suit. I needed to win. Blogging has taught me how to be a cheerleader. More specifically, this community and others like it have introduced me to the joyous camaraderie of friendship, sharing platforms and both teamwork and cheering in the glorious work of the kingdom. Just a couple weeks ago, I was overjoyed to see five women from this community cheering each other on through Facebook and other social media as they each prepared to launch their new books. No jealousy, no envy, no competition . . just cheering! I love it!

  31. 56
    Beth WIlliams says:

    I am a forever cheerleader! I cheer people & try to encourage them on their life journey! My God given gift is encouragement! I can always find the bright side of anything!

    I love my hubby and friends for encouraging me!

    Greatly written post Deidra!

    Blessings :)

  32. 57

    Thank you for your encouragement today.I am recovering from surgery. I am use to working outside the home as a home health aide taking care of young adults and older adults with disabilities. I am not use to sitting at home doing nothing even though I can’t right now
    It is hard for me to be setting on the sideline cheering people on in what they do when I am not use to doing it. I know I am to be subsmittedion to my husband with him working and doing everything around.the house for me while I am layed up. Please pray for me and if anyone have any encouragement words for me please send them my was. I know God is with me and loves me. I.read my Bible everyday
    I am really having a hard time begining a cheerleading on the side for my husband through all of this
    Is there any of you that can give me a few tips please

    • 58

      Tara, I hope your recovery is going well. It is hard to stop doing and even harder to let others do for you! I’ve watched my husband do my job (even just on Mothers’ Days) and have to bite my tongue to keep from “correcting” him. I’ll pray for God to give you words of affirmation for your husband as he works while you can’t.

  33. 59

    Exodus 17:12 has been a treasure to me the past few years for a different reason: learning that I can’t go it alone; none of us can. We need each other’s help, and God intended it to be that way. How validating, though, to read your words affirming the gift of encouragement. I believe it takes a real grace from God to be able to un-jealously cheer others on … a grace that I continue to need.