I GIVE UP
(Lead Me Part 3)
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
What do you do when things go wrong?
Not just the—“I slept through the alarm, spilled coffee on my white shirt, heading out the door to the car with a dead battery”— kind of day. But more like the—“You stayed too late at work for a boss who is mad at you for taking too much bereavement time, so you and didn’t get home in time to change the diaper on your parent who barely knows who you are anymore, and you missed the call from your own doctors who need to see you in their office; they have the results of your biopsy”–kind of day??
When it rains, it pours. And this type of day/life happens to even the best of us. What do you do with these kinds of days?
I find comfort in the realness of the journeys of the followers of God in the Bible. Job is widely turned to as the book in the bible that demonstrates enduring faith through the very toughest these kinds of days.
As I re-read his story, I am reminded that people back then believed that when bad stuff happened, they must’ve done something wrong and God was punishing them for it. Yet, Job had done nothing wrong! His whole life, his prosperity, his family, his reputation, his health was all snatched from him and he was INNOCENT. (Sound familiar?) Then his friends, day after day, rubbed salt in his wounds with accusations and empty words.
Job was having one of those kinds of days. And, let’s face it—we all will be faced with days like these sooner or later. And, when my day comes, I would like to think that I would have the endurance, patience and faithfulness of Job.
But I know myself better than that.
And, if you know me at all, you know that I love finding parallels of our ordinary days and relating them to our journey on this lovely planet that is our temporary home.
I was training for my first marathon; an endurance run of 26.2 miles.
At the same time, my father was battling metastatic malignant melanoma level 5; an endurance run for his very life.
The doctors told him it was untreatable, but he wasn’t willing to accept that. Experimental treatments gave him the hope and ultimately more time in the race.
Marathon training gave me hours upon hours by myself to pray, cry, feel the pain, rage against the pavement, to be numb, to pray more and to increase my endurance. Mile by mile, just moving forward was my therapy.
At times, my own thoughts and questions would drive me to the brink of giving up. So, I tried using headphones and music on runs longer than two hours. It was on a desolate, long, hot run out on the nearly deserted Salt River Indian reservation, miles from home that I was smacked in the face with the reality of hopelessness of my father’s diagnosis.
The questions were relentless–How was he handling this? He puts on a brave face and still maintains his sense of humor, but what happens in the dark of the long night? Would we ever get a father/daughter dance at my wedding? Would he make it to see my marathon? Would he survive this next treatment? What if he gives up? Why does cancer even exist?!?
As my feet traveled along the winding canal, the gravel shifted under me like quicksand, the tears began choking my breath. I doubled over as the side-stitch from lack of oxygen pricked at my side. I stopped dead in my tracks. I couldn’t go on.
I didn’t have the endurance like Job. I gave up.
I sucked in deep breaths trying to regain my composure. I bent over. How could I give up? How could I give up when my dad is fighting for his life?
And then coincidence/grace stepped in. The song that began playing was by Mercy Me. As their words traveled through the ear-buds right into the depths of my struggle, a drop of hope quenched my spirit. I stood and slowly began walking, one foot in front of the other. Before long, I had regained my stride and was running. As I pressed on my journey, these words of hope reverberated with my soul:
Help is on the way
He’s come to save the day
And what I’ve learned in my life,
The One thing greater than my stride is Your grasp
So hold fast”
—Mercy Me “Hold Fast”
“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
When I’m having one of those days, I remember Who travels with me. He never lets me out of His grasp.
It’s been the darkest nights and toughest stuff on this life’s path that I’ve felt my relationship with God so intimately.
I look back on the faithful answers God delivered throughout. I remember how He answered so many prayers. How, although my father lost the battle for his life, we did get that “father-daughter dance;” we had more time together; and he not only bought me this from my first marathon:
But my father was there, cheering me on as I crossed the finish line.
I’ve said it before—I am not a leader.
I’m a follower.
My friend, “quotable Kelly” is a leader. She effortlessly has led a group of women (including me) these last eight years.
She’s led us not only through an increasing knowledge of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, but has also traveled with us through the peaks and valleys of life. She shared her wisdom, experience, understanding and heart with us. Yet, her life takes her away from our group. Leaving a void in the leadership for our group and, leaving a void in our hearts for her presence and wisdom.
I’ve been asked to step up as leader. I, in no way, feel worthy or up to it—I’ve enjoyed being in the follower role.
Yet, in life, sometimes we’re asked to do things we don’t feel equipped to handle.
And then the questioning begins.
The human heart was made to love, but is it equipped to withstand the loss of loved ones?
The human brain is so imaginative and creative, but how do we comprehend cancer? Alzheimer’s? Children who go hungry? Divorce?
How do we lead in this messy life, when we are a follower?
How do we hold fast, when we don’t feel equipped?
I am a runner. I believe I’m equipped to run because I’m not coordinated enough to do anything else! (See the post on ZUMBA!) 😉
And in life and in running, you just have to put one foot in front of the other. Keep going. And I KNOW it isn’t easy.
But when it comes to “events” that can be planned for, I am overly equipped to handle this! When I can see an upcoming race on the calendar, in my self-sufficiency, I will do everything in my power to be ready and equipped!
And I tend to be an “over-trainer.”
My husband and I are full swing into our triathlon training and our event is this weekend.
Have we done enough? Have we gone far enough? Have we done the work and put in the miles?
And since I’ve been in charge of our training, the answer is: “Of course we have!”
But it didn’t come easy and it doesn’t mean that stuff won’t go wrong along the way–
“Honey, if we are going to get this run in, we need to go now!” I urged on my new husband before the Arizona heat got unbearable.
I’m not sure why I do this, however; because he hardly ever runs WITH me…
Usually, I love to run. It’s routinely become my prayer time, my return to sanity, my time to rage against the pavement when I’m having one of those days, and it’s my time to commune with God. It’s where I leave all my questions.
I believe it’s saved my spirit more than once.
But when my new husband and I “run together,” it drives me NUTTY because he runs about 15 feet in front of me. And we never use headphones when we run “together,” so no luck on finding some encouragement or distraction there!
It completely deflates my spirit as I huff and puff, trying to reach the unreachable carrot that is my new husband gliding along the pavement in front of me.
But today, on this run that we should’ve started an hour earlier, I didn’t want to fall behind. The quicker we went, the sooner we’d be done and out of the heat. Right?! Yet, today I simply cannot keep pace with him. After getting frustrated and slightly overheated, everything about holding fast, pressing on and “just doing it” falls away…
The noise inside my head is rambling on about how we should’ve gone earlier. I should’ve gone without him. I should’ve…should’ve…should’ve…I **BONK**
I give up.
I wave him on telling him to go on without me.
I let out an exhausted breath and bend down (pretending to stretch.)
While I’m down, I look back at the upside down road I have just traveled. And in this moment, it happens to me.
At the end of my own limits, my own capabilities, my endurance and sufficiency, a new strength is found—It is here, as I give up on my own strength, that the Unseen moves in.
“My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in your weakness.”—2 Corinthians 12:9
I remember back on the other roads where I was to the breaking point.
And I remember the enduring faith of Job.
–“The account of Job’s life isn’t in the Bible so we can compare experiences; it’s there so we can rest in the knowledge that God is in control in every circumstance of our lives and that He is full of wisdom and grace…It is our journey with the Lord that is precious to us because we realize how close God is as He walks with us every step of the hard way.”-Joel Osteen THE HOPE BIBLE
Job knew who he followed and who was with him at every step. He also knew God was the prize at the end of the road he was enduring.
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
“…We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfect our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)
I stand up and re-affix my eyes.
I run. And during this specific run, I remind myself that we all have our own race to run. By trying to do this at another’s pace, the joy was sucked out of my own journey. By accepting my capabilities and my weaknesses, I fall into my own cadence and I focus on running my own race.
I am struck by the parallel truth that each of us must be responsible for our own journey. Not anyone else’s, just our own. As the miles pass beneath my feet, my joy for this run returns. Up ahead, I see my new husband waits for me at the corner.
He needed a sip of the water (I always carry.) He drinks.
I nod at him, “Go on ahead,” I say with a genuine smile.
He takes off again.
I sigh, watch him go, and I continue at my own pace. A teensy bit of heat exhaustion creeps in and I imagine that the saguaros are a message from God-with their arms raised in encouragement, they are cheering me on!
I remind myself that this pain and these miles prepare me for something greater down the road. I HOLD FAST in knowing this race of life requires endurance.
I press on.
About a mile later, I catch up to my overheated hubby—he is walking.
“It’s too hot,” he says. “You go on ahead.” He smiles at me.
He has **BONKED**
I give him more of the water and know that those same saguaros will cheer him on.
But he has given up on this run.
I run on.
I reach our destination before he does.
I prepare two tall, ice-cold glasses of fresh filtered water and go back out to cheer on my husband.
Whether you are facing something that you don’t feel adequately prepared for; running a race that you’ve done everything in your power to endure; stumbling through one of those days where your spirit is tested; or when you are entrenched in the toughest stuff of life and just want to give up, –there is still One who leads the way for us.
“So Father, give me the strength
To be everything I’m called to be
Oh, Father, show me the way
To lead them
Won’t You lead me?”
—Sanctus Real’s “Lead Me”
He will equip us when we are at the end of our abilities.
He is with us for every step and cheering us on.
And I can only imagine what it will be like to see Him face to face as we cross that finish line!