Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
As we approach our youngest being home for one year it seems appropriate and necessary to reflect on the months that have passed. The first year of life of a newborn is so full of milestones and growth--steps toward mobility and independence. It is beautiful and hard all at the same time. The days often pass slowly but the year goes quickly. There is this ever present tension between what has been, what is expected and hope for what milestones will be reached in the future.
This I know because of the babies I have birthed from my womb and watched grow, and grow and grow. For ten years, an entire decade, I have been here watching the birthing of the future callings and purposes of my children. And as an active observer and necessary participant in their journey to understanding who God has made them to be and excavating what and who He is calling them to, I stand amazed at the wonder of children's’ hearts. The beauty of their simple gifts. The innocence of their curiosity. But most of all, their ability to love. To love me without hesitation and with this deep need for me that I don’t deserve. The love of my children, when I let myself stop and look at it, washes me of old percepts and lifts my eyes up to their Heavenly Father who set his treasure right there in their little hearts.
But most days, I don’t stop long enough to let my soul and mind be reminded of the spiritual blessings my children and husband provide for me each day. More moments of my days than I would like to admit to our spent focused on temporal, physical, and surface issues. And I get lost in them. My mind doesn’t just get overrun by managing homework, meals, bathroom toilets and bedroom floors. My soul and my self get lost. The light goes dark on my purpose, hope, peace, and power found in Christ and I operate out of a place that isn’t even who I know am.
This is a hard spot.
Do you know this hard spot I am describing? This place where you can’t quite figure out where you are, who you are or how certain words or actions could have come out of your mouth and body when just 17 seconds prior you were reflecting on the love of Christ, the beauty of your family or the miracles God has done in your life.
Ah, the hard spot. It is not a destination. It is not somewhere I hang out for long periods of time, but this year I have entered the hard spot over and over and over again.
I wish I could tell you I understand why. I have some ideas but no definite answers. Perhaps it is because hurt, pain and abandonment follow a child who has known these things and he brings them with him when he arrives in your home. Perhaps it is because the enemy would love nothing more than to take me out as I am trying to learn what it means to be a new mom via adoption. Perhaps it is because there are black spaces of my heart that God loves me too much to leave untouched and unredeemed. Perhaps it is because living life in the tension of grace and truth that is held together by mercy is something I know in my head but haven’t yet applied to my heart. Perhaps it is just that, as per usual, transition knocks the planet of self I like to keep spinning on a certain axes, right off the stand.
It could be any or all or none of these things. I wish I could wrap up this hard spot message with some tidy strings and glitter, but for now, God has not yet revealed the specifics to me. And it is likely he won’t until I see him face to face. Ten years ago that truth would have bothered me because I would’ve insisted it would be better for me to know his plan in all of this. But as I have walked with Jesus and watch the ways my kids grow and mature through trusting me to provide for them what they need when they need it, I too have come to find all kinds of peace in trusting that my Heavenly Father will give me the perspective I need when I need it.
When I am helping my daughter with Math it becomes obvious that she would prefer I just give her the answer or that I would point out to her exactly which problems she needs to correct. But I know that doing either of these for her will not help her learn Math nor will it help her to persist at being able to fix errors in her own work. It is more important that she learn persistence and have a try-again spirit, than it is for her to have the right answer on the first try.
This perspective on her Math has helped me to settle in and believe that God isn’t holding out on me when I want answers to why I am in a hard spot. Or answers for how to get out. He cares more about my strength, perseverance and heart posture than he does about me having the right answer. He knows that I will not fail because I have him as my guide. And maybe more importantly, I need to practice believing I know I won’t fail either.
And you won’t fail either. Hard spots are hard. No doubt about it. But here is what I have learned about hard: you get stronger, more dependent on eternity, and less confident in the comfort that the world offers. If I shy away from or avoid hard in my physical training, I get weak, injured or just plain unmotivated. I believe this directly applies to the spiritual as well. If I run and hide from the hard spots of my inner dialogue, my mind or my soul, I will not know the power and strength given to me in Christ before the beginning of time.
How about you, do you find yourself in a hard spot from time to time?
What if that hard spot is meant to make you stronger? What if that hard spot is going to enable you to live in the tension of knowing God is good to you and that He is for you even when resistance wants to push that truth away? What if your soul needs to learn how to muscle up and push back? To fight for what you believe and know is true?
Have you ever noticed how many verses in the Bible are about training for races, fighting in battles, and strength and power? Perhaps these are in God’s Word because our life depends on knowing how to both be broken and grow stronger in the midst of the hard spots.
My life as an adoptive mother has been hard. That doesn’t mean I would change any of it, ever. Hard in my mind in not synonymous with mistake. Hard in my mind is an indicator that I am in the fight. That I am not sitting on the sidelines watching life move by. Hard to me is synonymous with God’s purposes for goodness, grace and mercy. I need hard in order to know that I am able to run my race. I need hard to relate to my savior. And there will never be anything I face in my life that was as hard as his walk to the cross, the spear in his side, or the darkness he encountered on the day he took on all the sins of my heart upon himself in order to save me from myself. That was a hard spot.
But the story didn’t end there. Three days later he rose again. He won. Thus, I too will find victories over my hard spots. But in the meantime I know I am to persevere and train my soul to fight the battles of my mind with the power that rose Jesus from the dead and the hope that was restored in Mary’s heart when she met her savior face to face in a garden three days after his death.
The process of birthing a child from your womb takes a toll on the physical body. In much the same same but different way, adoption takes a toll on the caverns of your heart and soul. There is this natural process of the body returning to “mostly normal” in the year that follows childbirth. But for most of us there are marks that are left, reminders of what we carried, reminders that our bodies nor our selves are quite the same. The year post-placement too leaves some marks, they are often unseen and hard to come to terms with because of their invisibleness. But for me they are becoming remnants of a spiritual, emotional and, in ways, physical journey that was birthed out of some hard spots.
Looking back on the last 12 months I can see growth, milestones met and God building our home in new and unique ways. So, on March 16th, I will metaphorically speaking, throw confetti in the air and celebrate that we have made it through a year of hard spots. I will rejoice because we made it through and love is still winning. And even if the year ahead holds more hard, I have confidence (because we have made it through the hard spots before) our hope and faith we will enable us to make it through hard again. Maybe, just maybe, it will get easier. But even if it doesn’t, I know goodness and strength will come because I put my trust in the greater plan that my Father in heaven has for me, my husband, my children, my church, my community and this world.
Above: February 2017 Below: February 2018
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: