Like most people, I began 2017 with a few resolutions. Actually, our whole family did. We sat down with our two 8-year-olds and two 6-year-olds and explained what resolutions were. Then asked everyone to make one.
One of my 8-year-olds is resolved to see snow this year. I’ll let you know how she manages to achieve this resolution. My poor little Floridians. They have no idea how blessed they are to be wearing flip-flops in January.
One of mine was the age-old cliche of getting healthy again. I know it would be cooler to resolve to something more profound than eat better and exercise, but the truth is…well, I need to eat better and exercise. It would just be pretentious to pretend I’m not doing what the masses are doing.
I’m a runner – ahem, jogger – and have been since I was a sophomore in high school and my friend Michelle was like, “We should join the cross country team!” I think my response (probably while munching on a bag of Doritos), was something along the lines of “Do I look like a runner to you??”
But for some reason, I did it anyway. The first day of practice we had to run a 5K. In August. In Central Florida. At 3:00 in the afternoon. I don’t think I’d ever run more than a mile. It’s a miracle I lived to tell the tale. If I remember correctly, it took me about 45 minutes. If you know nothing about running, just know that is NOT a good time.
Somehow, though, running became one of the few things in my life I’ve ever really persisted in. And over the next few years, my time got better and I got stronger and I learned that I could, indeed, do this running thing. Since that time it’s been my go-to exercise. So when I “resolve” to start exercising again that’s where I start.
So January 2nd saw me slipping my Nikes on and dragging myself outside. And it struck me as I was trudging along that going for a run is a lot like what it feels like to have a daily, real walk with Jesus.
For the first 2 minutes or so of a run, I feel kind of euphoric. My thoughts go something like, Um, I’m actually amazing at this. This isn’t hard at all. I should train for a half-marathon. Maybe even a marathon! This is going to be my best year eveeeeer!
This is a little like my morning time in the Word (when I manage to not hit the snooze button 18 times and actually drag myself out of bed before my children).
And as an aside, can we talk about this new bedtime feature on Apple products?? Just TRY waking up to the Early Riser wake up sound. It is the most soothing, calming music I’ve ever heard and all it does is lull me back to sleep. Thanks, Apple.
So if I’ve managed to get myself up early and have some time reading God’s Word, I usually have that same kind of euphoric response as the first few minutes of my run. I love Jesus! I love grace! This day is gonna be amazing!
The problem is that after those first couple of minutes pass and pain in my muscles starts to catch up with my brain, I realize that the half-marathon is a pipe dream and it’s all I can do to keep myself from lying down on the sidewalk and praying that some passerby will take pity on me and drive me home. I cannot do this. This was a terrible idea. I deserve a bagel for this 1/4 mile of jogging. Who does this for fun? What is wrong with people?
This is not unlike the reality of my life that hits me about .04 seconds after my children wake up.
“I’m cold!” *sob*
“I don’t like oatmeal!” *flopping*
“I don’t think I can go to school today. *fake cough*
“…hey mom, did you know that Harry Potter can talk to snakes?” *goes back to calmly eating oatmeal*
We have 3 girls and a boy. I’ll let you guess which is which.
At this point I typically feel like lying down on the kitchen floor and praying that some passerby will take pity on me and get my children to school for me. All of the grace-wind has gone out of my sails and I’ve gone from Yay Jesus! to I cannot do this today in a matter of minutes.
BUT, here’s the thing I’ve learned about running. And I’m learning it about my faith as well.
When I push through that I think I’m going to die moment, there is this amazing shift where my legs kind of go into autopilot mode and my breathing levels and the pace feels doable, even enjoyable. Ok. So maybe I’ll never run a marathon. Or maybe I will. But this is good for me. I can finish this little run today. I’m glad I’m here.
The metaphor does fall apart a little bit here but I do think there’s a sense in which our faith doesn’t deepen until we start pushing through to see Jesus in those little moments. It’s not so much that we push ourselves. That doesn’t work at all. It’s more that we push ourselves back out of the way so that Jesus can keep us moving forward.
The moment when I feel like giving up is a moment that I’ve let my self-sufficiency get in the way of my communion with the Father. The reason I can’t handle my children is because I’ve forgotten every word that I read that morning and am trying to be awesome-mom.
Or the reason my job feels like too much or I’m irritable with my husband or I don’t want to deal with my responsibilities is that I’ve put all of my faith back in myself instead of focusing on what my Father in Heaven has granted me for that day. And I lay down and give up because I can’t keep up the pace I’ve set for myself.
In a wonderful new year’s post from a few years ago, Paul Tripp said, “You and I live in little moments, and if God doesn’t rule our little moments and doesn’t work to re-create us in the middle of them, then there’s no hope for us, because that’s where you and I live.”
We all have that vision of ourselves on the mountain-top. The big moment. The marathon. But it’s the little keeping-on moments in the day to day that feel dang-near impossible sometimes. If I give up every time it’s a little harder than I thought it would be, I miss the chance to see God’s grace meeting me in even the tiniest moment.
Whatever little moments make up our days – in the office, in the home, in the church, in the grocery store, at the park, on the road – may we “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”