Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Many years ago I taught the poem, "Harlem," to my high school literature students alongside the play, A Raisin In the Sun. Exploring dreams with youth is always energizing because of the hope they carry with them! Ironically, this was during a season of my life when the dreams that I had dreamed to that point were happening around me. I woke each day to a handsome, Godly man, walked to work with said man. And we spent the hours of our days living out a call to missions together--teaching and training students in the environment of a Christian international school. Certainly, there were hard days and “homesick” days, but all in all I was living my dreams, using the gifts and skills that I had been trained in, and making rich and life-altering relationships with students and colleagues. Life felt significant. The days full of new adventures.
Now, several years later, in a completely different setting, with more wrinkles, increased knowledge, expanded giftings and maybe even a little tiny bit more wisdom, I find myself struggling to believe I will ever get back to that “place” (or perhaps state of mind) where I can see am living the dream. By this I mean, living and working in an environment where my faith, experiences, education and standards are honored, needed, and integral to personal and organizational success: A life cohesively aligned from home, to work to church. A way of living that is in a lot of ways small, but deep--fewer relationships, less opportunities but more focus in one direction. Ministry, vocation and companionship all coming together with Christ, the lost and excellence in education as the central tenants of holistic living.
As a freshman in college at Bethel University, a required class for newbies to campus was, Whole and Holy Living. I don’t even remember the professor or any of my classmates but the intended outcome of the course has remained with me and set the course for how I evaluate my life. In this course the material and discussions helped us to see how separating the secular and the sacred is not the call of Christian life. Rather, that our faith is whole and our living holy when our faith infiltrates all areas of our life--academic pursuits, vocation, relationships, and free-time. Because to live whole is to invite holy to be present whether we are coaching a team on the cross-country course, or teaching children the Bible, or hanging out with our neighbor on a cool Saturday night. To see all that God set’s in front of us as holy can help us to see the whole picture of God’s sovereignty and greatness. As well as our role and responsibility to not ignore, take for granted or waste the any of the areas of our life. Instead, to seize every opportunity as a chance to invite the holy power of Christ into the work of our head, hands and heart. To use the whole of our lives to bring attention to God’s holiness and glory.
As this as founding force in my perspective on life, I am perhaps a bit of an idealist in my pursuit of living a meaningful and productive life. I crave unity of purpose among colleagues and members of the church body and my home. I expect of myself (and others) a drive for excellence in my vocation because I do not take my role as an assignment given to me by position or people, but by a holy-creator-God who set me in my time and place, and designed me in a particular way to meet needs around me. And to do so by giving my absolute best, and to be unrelenting in knowing how to do what I do better. All the while perusing greater humility by seeking knowledge and understanding that remind me of what I know and what I don’t know. And through acquiring wisdom from consistent study of the Bible and observations of the themes and experiences of the life God extends to me (out of complete grace) one day at a time.
As a result of all that I have divulged above, I have built some dreams in my heart and mind. A mansion of ideals, hopes, imaginings and (to be honest) expectations. My life experiences--most of which are opportunities I did not earn or deserve--have lead me to believe that I serve a God who sets dreams, goals and pursuits in our hearts (Psalm 20:4, Psalm 37:4). A God who puts gifts in us that are intended to be used for the good of his people and the glory of his name (James 1:17, 2 Corinthians 4:7-9, Jeremiah 29:11-13). A God who used a shepherd to kill a giant, a prostitute to provide an escape route to safety for His people, a boasting-dreamer to save a nation from famine and displaced persons to guide the decisions of kings. And I have learned that I have the audacity and courage to believe he can use me too--to kill giants, provide a path to safety for others, set-up systems for future generations to have what they need and guide the decisions of authority figures to align with the heart of God. I don’t believe I have a huge role to play in this, but I do think I have a significant role that matters. And that if God sets dreams in my heart, he is behind them setting a course for my feet to walk into them.
But. . .when? How?
The present days seem to be saying, “those dreams are deferred.” And what does the soul do with dreams deferred? Langston Hughes offers some options in his poem, Harlem, and I will be honest I can relate to them all. Dreaming big dreams means also facing big disappointments, second-guessing who you are and all that is around you, and an explosion from time to time. Yep, some metaphoric pounding on the doors of heaven-- asking to just get in and be done with the race toward the goal to win the prize. To be there already living beyond the pressing of the soul against the earthly restraints and fallenness that drops obstacles in the way of my desire for a whole and holy way of life.
Wrestling might be the best word to describe these days of perceiving that my dreams are on deferment. Countless moments are spent strong-arming lies, putting doubt in headlocks, and taking-down the strongholds that encroach on the dreams I wait on the Lord to bring to fruition. There is a constant need for me to remind my soul that Joseph was built to live his dreams through being sold into slavery, put in prison and separated from his family. Esther was called to her role after being taken from her home and admonished for her insecurities in order for her to take hold of her calling to save her people through her position. David was on the run for his life long before he was given his position as king. In addition, he failed often and yet, because of his consistent repentance, his legacy was hallmarked as a man after God’s heart.
In all my wrestling, reflecting and desperately desiring to keep a heart soft and open to the quiet whispers of the God who made me (Psalm 139), I have discovered that at the heart of my dreams is this desire for a David-like kind of legacy. Thankfully, because of truth and grace, being a woman after God’s heart has little to nothing to do with my circumstances or my current progress toward the dreams of my heart, mind and soul. I believe this is likely what Joseph, Daniel, Esther and the Apostle Paul learned in their journeys of being refined, built-up and set forth to be used by God to impact the generations around them.
Which leads me to conclude that just because I can’t see my dreams coming together (because the assembling of the pieces of my dreams are not seemingly present), there is no grounding to believe that they have been crushed, terminated or even delayed. Rather, that there is a good God who is doing great things in my life despite my unawareness and inability to perceive it (Romans 8:28). Somehow all of what I face, each hour of each day, is designed on purpose to guide me toward the dreams set in my heart by the same God who set the Earth on a perfect axis in perfect orbit to sustain life.
You and I have a choice to make when we determine the value we place on and the approaches we take to the “obstacles” we face in living toward the dreams we desire to see come to fruition on this side of heaven. We can choose to wrestle-down and headlock the lies that could lead us to allow our dreams to dry up like a raisin in the sun, or create in us a countenance that stinks like rotten meat. Or we can choose to remember, and direct our mind and soul to forge forward, believing that if God set a dream in our hearts, he is working to make it come true. We can choose to believe that he who has called us is faithful, and that He has designed us to be able to live out those wild dreams (Philippians 4:13). Especially, dreams that are rooted in loving his people and bringing glory to his kingdom.
Everyday, no matter the circumstances, He is working out all things because He loves us and fights for us. We need to choose to also fight to believe that often times the path toward living the dream is going to require some desert places, dungeon spaces, and letting the holy come camp in our everyday--guiding us to be able to see that not a moment is wasted because God is using the whole of it all to bring us closer and closer to the true dreams of our heart--His perfect plans for the journey of our life.
On first glance, you may perceive that where you are right now is in a place of dream deferment. Yet, on a second deeper and holy-Spirit filled examination, I believe you too will also find that where you are right now is preparing you for the fulfillment of knocking those goals and dreams out of the park when the time is right. He knows that day. He is cheering you on toward that day. And he has a whole and holy perspective incorporated into each step. Choose today to fight, trust, and believe. In God’s hands no dreams are deferred--they are being built one whole and holy day at a time.
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: