Recently, I was getting dressed for the office and was putting on my dress shirt. It had been duly washed, dried, and ironed by my precious wife (who simply will not allow me to go out of the house and off to work wearing a wrinkled shirt).
You all know the routine. Being right handed, my right arm went in the right sleeve first. This was followed by my left arm going into the left sleeve. It was then that I felt it. It did not hurt. It was not necessarily uncomfortable. But it was there where something in the mind told me that it shouldn’t be.
In response, I promptly retracted my left arm and shook out whatever was lodged in my garment. When it came out, it was a simple dryer sheet, placed in with the clothes by my wife to add fabric softener in the drying process. It had remained in the sleeve and had even undergone the ironing process. I concluded the latter because it was neatly pressed with a nice crisp crease from the iron.
For some reason, what came to my mind was the simple question: “What’s up your sleeve?” I did some research and discovered that it’s a common enough expression. Its origins come from the card playing days of the old west. Slick gamblers would generally keep an ace up their sleeve. We are all familiar with this concept.
But some also kept derringer pistols there as well. And in this sense, the phrase actually predates the wild west of America. It seems that assassins in the ancient world were known to often known to carry daggers hidden up inside their sleeves.
Another prominent use of the term comes from the world of illusion. Magicians and entertainers often conceal objects up their sleeves as props for their feats of magic. In this case, the immediate purpose is the same as for card playing – deception. Albeit, one can contend that the deception is harmless and designed more for entertainment rather than nefarious purposes.
Isn’t it interesting that most of what we associate with having something up one’s sleeve is negative? Is it possible to have things up one’s sleeve that serve some purpose other than these negative things? Perhaps so; and perhaps the soft, fresh smelling dryer sheet that popped out of my sleeve gives us a hint.
Perhaps we can find ways to approach people with some wonderful little surprise up our sleeve. Something that brings them relief from the all too harsh world in which we all live.
Something that soothes rather than grates, that refreshes rather than drains, and that uplifts rather than brings them down. In effect, we can find simple little ways to surprise others by uplifting and encouraging them in the name of Jesus Christ.
The Bible is full of examples of people who did just that – who encouraged others in the name of and on behalf of God. Consider the following examples of Biblical encouragers…
1 Samuel 23:16: “And Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in the Lord.”
Acts 11:23 “Then when Barnabus arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord…”
Acts 14:21-22: “Then Paul and Barnabus returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith…”
Acts 15:32: “Judas and Silas, also being prophets themselves, encouraged and strengthened the brethren…”
Colossians 2:2: Paul writes and says, “My goal is that their (the Colossians’ and the Laodiceans’) hearts may be encouraged…”
Colossians 4:8: Paul writes and says, “For I have sent Tychicus to you for this very purpose, that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts.”
Colossians 4:11: Paul again says, “Justus and other fellow workers for the kingdom of God have proved to be an encouragement to me.”
Dryer sheets are quite inexpensive. A box of 240 costs just $8.94, for an average of 3.7 cents per sheet. Yet, just one of those sheets was an unexpected and pleasant surprise for me.
Likewise, one of the few things we can do each day that cost us very little and yet still has a powerful impact is a simple, unexpected, pleasant little word of encouragement!
So keep several of these up your sleeve; and be ready at a moment’s notice to pop one out whenever it might be needed. This simple act will prove a blessing to both you and the one you surprise with it!