Blonde and pretty, Marnie is extremely shy.  For about three years, I didn’t think she could speak, only sing.  However, over the years that I’ve come to know and love her, I’ve learned that it isn’t an inability to speak but intense shyness that keeps her from expressing herself.

However, last month when I asked if someone would like to lead in prayer, she raised her hand.  And she prayed out loud.  Later, during a questioning game, she answered the question that was presented to the group.  The home where she lives agrees that Marnie is slowly emerging from her self-inflicted shell. 

It is a thrilling sight to see the words of Paul being reenacted in the life of this young woman.  Paul told Timothy, “For God id not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (II Timothy 1:7).  Working this verse into our lives is hard road to travel.  All of us wear a protective shell of timidity at some time or another.  All of us struggle to break from this shell. 

There are some things which make the shell easier to break.  Perhaps the most important thing we can do for others is to provide an environment free of criticism.  We know that correction does not have to contain criticism.  Psychologists tell us that it takes 10 declaration of encouragement to overcome one critical statement.  Becoming a continual encourager will break shells of fear and concern.

Several months ago, I learned a key that seemed to unlock Marnie in regard to our relationship.  One morning, I picked her up.  She was in one of her sour moods.  In the past when I seen this foul mood, I would quiz her with a barrage of questions and statements.  “Are you all right?” Her response was silence with a side-ways look of disgust.  “What’s wrong?”  Silence.  “Tell me.”  Silence.

One morning, she came out the door with THAT look on her face.  “Hey, Dearie,”  I said.  “You look beautiful this morning.  Is that a new dress?”

“No” was the curt response.

“Well, when you get tired of it, promise to give it to me.”

Marnie giggled and said, “Okay.”  She opened the door of the van and began to smile.

From that morning, we’ve experienced maybe ten to twenty bad mood mornings.  But she has responded to my compliments and encouragements.  There have been no questions or criticism. 

Each of us work through hard days of fear, anger and remorse.  Usually what we need is a small word of encouragement and help.  Marnie has taught me the benefits of allowing God’s spirit to work in Marnie’s life as I cooperate with Him.