Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
It is a new year. Can you even believe it is 2016? You know you are getting old when you start saying things like, I don’t know where the last year went. Or when you struggle to remember how many years it has been since you attended college or high school. And when you are slow and bad at math it takes even longer to do the whole subtracting of years thing to figure out the years since this or that happened.
A few weeks ago I turned another amazing year older. Upon reflecting on the passing of time and that I am getting ever closer to middle-aged, I had this realization: I get why people wind up 50 and suddenly realize they didn’t do all the things they wanted to when they were “young” and sometimes conclude it is too late to chase those goals. It is because when you are 34 you still feel young and the sense of urgency of life wrapping up isn’t quite there yet. A sense of getting things accomplished isn’t pressing because it seems like there will be plenty of years before you feel old. Seriously, I have birthed three children, traveled around the world, earned some degrees and manage to serve in a variety of ways in my community, meaning I have a lot of adult responsibilities. Yet, I don’t always feel like am a grown-up enough. I don’t feel like a leader. I don’t feel like it is my time to jump in and make an influence on my world or start in on my bucket list. (I haven’t even made one, for that matter.) So I can see how if one isn’t intentional about making her thirties matter, they just pass right into her forties, and then her fifties, and then all of the sudden the really big question hits: what did I do with my life that mattered? Or maybe a better question would be, what did I allow God to do with my life? It must take some incredible amounts of intentionality and focus to live life to the fullest when you still feel young!
At church we have been working through Andy Stanley’s series, Ask It. I believe this series has in some ways brought me to the above conclusions. Stanley’s big question is, “in light of my past experiences, my current circumstances and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do (or think or say)? Not what is wise for my neighbor or friend, but for me?” He also points out that when we don’t make decisions based on these faucets of our lives, we don’t have our own best interest in mind. Thus, in order to make a wise decision one must reflect on her past, examine her current and ponder her future. How often do you do that? How often do you really think about how the decisions you make today hinge on your past, should reflect your current goals, and will affect your future hope and dreams?
That’s a lot of hard work and thinking. And thinking is just plan hard sometimes, right?
If I am honest, it isn’t often that I try to make every decision wise. It isn’t that I don’t have some future hopes and dreams that I day-dream about every once and a while. But I don’t think I take seriously enough that God has a plan for my future, that he has given me future hopes and dreams (and gifts and abilities) to guide me. I don’t take seriously and claim: If you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, and if you seek for it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you; understanding will guard you. ~Proverbs 2:6-11~
And if I am honest, I also don’t let myself consider my future hopes and dreams as a part of the daily, seemingly mundane, decisions of my life. And yet, everything I do makes up who I am. How I love, and serve, and lead all hinge on who I am, who I am letting Christ make me to be. My actions have the power set in to motion my future hopes and dreams—or not. All of my actions (or lack thereof) have an impact of some kind. There is nothing insignificant.
Jenny Allen in her study, Restless, frequently calls her listeners and readers to consider the reality that in light of eternity and all of time, our lives are short. We have no time to waste in living a life that is centered on giving glory to God and loving people, for His kingdom’s sake. She drills home the point that it is possible to waste our lives. She uses David as an example, “’When David has served God’s purposes in his own generation he fell asleep’(Acts 13:36). King David was a man after God’s heart who lived a passionate mess of a life, but he sought after God and God’s will. God used him to change the history of the world. This verse has two truths that make me tremble: 1) God has a unique purpose for each of us in our generation. 2) We have the choice to live that purpose or not.”
You guys, we have a choice to live it or not, but I think we forget that we are making that choice with the little choices of our day and with the words we choose to think and speak (to ourselves and others). It is easy to think our influence and the ability to meet our life’s hopes and dreams center on our circumstances and are the result of what happens to us. But I think it has a lot more to do with if we allow the Holy Spirit in to lead ourselves to make decisions that are wise. It is who we are despite our circumstances or position that enables us to live toward hope and dreams that align with God’s calling in our lives.
What does it take to be intentional? What does it take to stop and think long enough to make a wise decision?
I believe it includes inviting the Holy Spirit into your life through prayer, reading the scripture, seeking counsel from wise women and then doing the wise thing. But at the root of all of these is the doing and obeying: having the discipline to keep on moving toward wisdom by staying steady in discipline. Which is completely counter-cultural because our human nature, media and society tell us to go with what feels good right now. Do what’s right for right now.
Jenni Catron in her book, The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership, says this: “How do we develop discipline when discipline by its very nature is countercultural? …Discipline can be beautiful because it’s so radically different from the norm that it stands out…The curse of discipline is that others aren’t going to be singing your praises when you’re in the trenches. No on is cheering you on and praising you when the alarm goes off at 4:00 a.m. No one is going to notice and exuberantly praise the reading and study that you do before the sun comes up. No one is greeting you at the door of the gym with a pep talk and sports drink. Disciplined moments are lonely moments, but these are the moments that build the foundation of influence.”
Which leads me back to my getting-a-year-closer-to-middle-age reflection: I get why one can get to middle or late life and then realize life didn’t exactly lead them to their future hopes and dreams, because it takes discipline in the mundane and unseen to run with urgency and intention toward the race God has marked out for you. It takes looking to the future even when you still feel young. It requires realizing it is possible to waste our days if we don’t intentionally seek wisdom for how to live today and in the future.
And why is it so hard to run intentionally and with wisdom, daily?
Because God gave us free choice, dang it!! Because we live in a fallen world where there is a war going on against our future hopes and dreams—especially if those future hopes and dreams include giving glory to God and loving others like ourselves.
Today, I have choices. Today, you have choices. Our choices are not insignificant. Our choices matter. Our choices will determine what our life will look like in 10, 20, 30…years. And guess who knows you and your life best of all and desires that you find discipline in seeking Him so that he can be your guide to your future hopes and dreams?
God. His voice can be found through the Holy Spirit in prayer, through studying the Bible, and through words of wise counsel from family and friends.
Will we stop long enough to seek Him, while we are still young? Will we set up our lives around discipline so that we can know what is the wise way for us to live the small moments of our lives?
I don't know about you, but I sure want to try. I know I will fail somedays, but I pray that through God's power and strength, and my submission to his will that I will be able to run the race that he has marked out for me with endurance (Hebrews 12:1).
My prayer is that we will be an army that does just this—lives disciplined and wisely into our unique gifts and callings, designed specifically for each of us. My prayer is that, no mater our age, we would recognize that our life is short, but bursting with purpose. That we would not take for granted that God’s glory can be exhibited in how we live and that through our testimony others could come to know and love the savior of their souls. I pray courage, strength and tenacity over my life and yours.
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: