But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today" …

— Hebrews 3:13

"I've hit the wall!" That was my first thought when I felt an intense tingling throughout my body. "This can't be happening now!" I pleaded with myself, "I still have eight miles to go!" But with each step, my body engaged in a war with my mind. On one side of the battle was that I had dreamed and trained for six months to complete a marathon. On the other side, however, was my body. At the eighteen mile marker I began to experience severe cramping in my calves.

My wife, Erin, found me at the next mile marker. Expecting to see me running along joyously, her first thought was that I was injured. After explaining my dilemma, all I could think about was quitting. In my mind, if I had to walk the remaining distance, my dream of "running" a marathon was over. As I struggled with each step, Erin said something I'll never forget: "I believe in you!"

Looking back on the experience, Erin's encouragement seemed so simple. "I believe in you." I've heard her use those words many times before. But at that moment, during a time in which I felt so defeated, her words were like a burst of energy.

The rest of the race looked like a scene out of a Rocky movie. With each agonizing step, Erin was by my side. Some friends and family who were watching even joined in the long walk. However, as we reached the twenty-fourth mile, I couldn't endure walking any longer. If I was going to finish the race, I had to start running. After several yards, my calves began functioning again and I was able to jog. Finally, after 26.6 long miles, Erin and I crossed the finish line together. She believed in me.

The Power of Believing in Your Spouse

One of the greatest gifts you can give your mate is to believe in his or her dreams. As the pressures of life intensify, sometimes the difference between going after a dream and remaining passive is having someone say, "I believe in you!" If it's your desire to become an encouragement for your spouse, I suggest you answer two important questions.

1. What are your mate's dreams? The first step -- learn what your spouse is dreaming about. What specific things motivate him in life? What does she want to accomplish in her lifetime? During a road trip, Erin and I made a list of all the things we wanted to complete before we die. As Erin talked, I was amazed at the diversity of her dreams. I had no idea she even dreamt about some of those things. Understanding your mate's goals is a great way to deepen your intimacy.

2. What stands in his or her way? After hearing about your mate's dreams, it's important to determine what might inhibit realizing those goals. Is it a lack of confidence? Maybe she doesn't know where to begin? Whatever the reason, I encourage you to find out and assist him or her to overcome those barriers.

As I discovered while running the marathon, when someone believes in you, there's no limit to what can be accomplished. However, a goal is only a dream until someone makes it a reality. And that reality sometimes begins with a simple word of encouragement. What a difference you can make if you always treat your mate not as he might be at that moment, but as you know he can be.

© Copyright 2003 Smalley Relationship Center