Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God... (1 Peter 4:1-6).
"Arm yourself with the same way of thinking..." This struck me because it is such a power-packed word picture of the action required to train my thinking. The following definitions also help to solidify this image of arming:
I know I have read this passage before but at this time in my life it struck a chord that resonated with my Spirit because for several months I had been pondering where my passion had gone. Often on long runs I would mull over this idea, how is it that the time in my life where I felt most intensely were my adolescent years? Then passion drove my beliefs, understanding, and experiences. I remember having such intense feeling and emotions that they would guide me to believe that I could plan my future on what I felt. I could plan my life on what I was experiencing because there was such an intensity in what I felt. With such intensity came certainty that my reality was the reality. That what I saw and felt was truth, and no one was going to argue with or change what I felt. I would admittedly defend my passions and feelings and spent a lot of time running away from people who tried to show me that perhaps my passions and feelings should be geared elsewhere at that time in my life.
When I would ponder this I knew that I did not miss the chaos and lack of freedom of this time of my life. I did not miss the drama and challenges that came with being an "almost" adult. But what I did miss was the certainty that my feelings, emotions and passions mattered. I missed feelings having a powerful presence in my life. I missed passion as a driving-force behind my convictions and plans. Honesty, I think what I missed was intense feelings because to me they were some kind of indicator that I was okay, and I was human.
After 7 years in overseas education, 10 years of marriage, birthing and attempting to raise 3 babes, and some long months transitioning back to life in America, I had lost an ability to feel love passionately or to love passionately. Somehow in my life's journey the thoughts of my mind lead me down a path away from feeling and emotions, toward a numbness that at least felt better than anger and stress. But my spirit longed for more. I wanted a little piece of that passion and emotion from my teenage years back. I wanted a little bit of that not-yet-adult women back because I wanted to know that I could feel again. I wanted to know that there was something worth being passionate about. I wanted to know that this wasn't all there was to life. I wanted to know that the next 50 years could be abundantly passionate and hallmarked by love and joy. But how?
So I started praying that God would show me how to find that passion again. It was a pretty simple prayer because I really didn't know what I was praying for. I knew I couldn't take away the years of my life. I knew we were not being called on a new adventure in a different country or state (New adventures usually get me pretty excited, so knowing this was kind of a downer.). I knew that I loved my kids, husband, family and friends with all my heart, I just didn't feel it. And I didn't like that. I felt like I was an imposture living someone else's life, gaining all their love and having little emotional power to give them the emotional, passionate love they deserved.
Then a few weeks ago, I came across this passage as a process of working through the IF:Equip study on 1 & 2 Peter. This came at a very busy time of wrapping up my master's program and closing down my online class for the year. All I had time for was to jot the verse down in my journal with a big ------> pointing to the words, "blog about this process in my life." That's it, I didn't give myself anything else to work with on the day I actually had time to sit down and write. But it didn't take long for God to point me back to what he had laid on my heart April 22, 2015. In all caps, I had penned, NO LONGER FOR HUMAN PASSIONS BUT FOR THE WILL OF GOD.
These eleven words were a catalyst for me to begin to alter my prayer concerning regaining my emotions and passion. What I saw in this was that I hadn't lost my passions they had just been placed in a new location, gearing me in a different direction. Over the course of the last three years I have become more and more aware of the lost, lonely, and poor. The space in my heart where I let hurt and emotion reside for those who are marginalized and destitute has slowly began to increase. Barefoot Church, Seven: an experimental mutiny against excess, Interrupted: when Jesus wrecks your comfortable Christianity, Prodigal God, studies on poverty at its affects and education, IF:Gathering and IF:Equip speakers, along with the various tragic events of the last three years, opened my eyes to a need for my heart to be passionate for God's will on this earth.
One specific moment that showed me God was answering my prayer came unexpectedly when we were singing Hillsong's, Anchor, in church. As we sang my heart begged God to be an anchor for the souls of the people St. Louis, who had been damaged and beat-down by the American culture. I felt, passion (any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling). Not for myself, not for my gain, but an intensity to called out to God to bring His hope and love to a place that was hurting and lost. Through this and other experiences I am beginning to see that God is restoring my passion but not for human passions but for his will. And in that process I will need to arm my thoughts to live in a way that I do not need to worry about what may hinder my flesh, but rather to focus on the cause of Christ and to live seeking the kind of passion that compels me to act like Jesus.
Moving forward, the close the 1 Peter 4:1-11 demonstrates what that looks like. (How clever of Peter to pair these two ideas together?). The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace...in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.
Margaret Feinberg and Trisha Davis emphasize this part of the passage as they emphasize the stewardship of grace involving: being fervent love, being hospitable, serving one another--none of which are passive. Just as arming one's thoughts with the same way of thinking as Christ is not without action, neither is living a life hallmarked by grace. Margaret takes it one step further and says, this all begins with first being fervently in love with God so that all of the grace that is being extended through you to others is a representation of him--in order that in everything God my be glorified.
So how exactly have my thoughts and pryers changed?
I can see that my experiences and journey have not lead me away from being passionate and able to feel. Instead, I can see that he is reaching into my passion and feelings and trying to mold them to be passions and emotions that propel me toward His will in the World, not just in my individual life. I can see that he used my period of numbness to propel me to begin to look to him for the answer to my lack of passion. And in that process my heart and mind have gone under construction. My worldview has begun to change. My prayers have begun to encompass more than the people in my life. My heart is stirred more deeply by the devastating events that have made headlines in recent months. I don't find myself angry, but instead prayerful--desperately, asking God to move all of us to be involved reconciliation and to pour out our lives in the same way of suffering-passion that Christ did for us on the cross.
God may you teach each of us to daily arm ourselves with Christ's way of thinking. Help us to help one another to be stewards of grace to our families, friends, and strangers. Make us sensitive to the needs (emotional, physical, and spiritual) of others and give us the courage, resources and passion to meet a need when we see a need. Lord, if you are patiently waiting that all would know you before you return, teach our hearts to see each soul with the type of urgency that Christ displayed during his short years on the Earth. Make us uncomfortable with where we are. Answer our questions with your Word. Let your hope be the anchor for our souls, and help us to offer this anchor to others so that our community can be an expression of your hope.
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: