Exactly one week ago, I was in a van loaded with teenagers heading south. We were packed full, bursting with bags and people and energy. And we were filled with eager anticipation for what was ahead: A running competition that was the culmination of a season full of hard work and big goals. Hovering in the hearts and minds of these athletes was an anticipation of what was to come, a desire to finish strong, and a goal to run well, but mostly, they just enjoyed being a team.
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”- Acts 20:24
In the hours that took us from Wisconsin/Illinois to Tennessee and back last week, I witnessed a lot of good bloom in these young adults whose lives have been inexplicably bound to my own. It is a privilege to watch them run, to watch them struggle and to overcome. I have learned so much from them.
Because I am a mom, I can see the passion and the hard work these athletes have put into their journey. This trip was a reward for the hard work they put into the season. As parents, we have witnessed the potential that possibility provides, years of experience and the understanding that time is fleeting reminds us to count those blessings intentionally.
The effort to make this trip possible, despite what had to be sacrificed was fully worth it. The lessons we learn, even in the busy, lead us to look closely for the grace that is there… to recognize the #gracemoments for what they are and to see His mercies all around us. Counting graces teach us the heart of thankfulness in all things.
In everything give thanks; fro this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.- 1 Thessalonians 5:18
The course was gorgeous, but it was a hard race. Many factors created unfavorable circumstances for the athletes to contend against, heat being the foremost difficulty. Life has a way of putting things into perspective, like this. The trials of a race can fully be applied to the difficulties in life. And the lessons we learn in the midst of them are universally true in may other aspects.
Because I am a runner, I can understand the battle that plays out in the mind. There is a self-talk that can be defeating in the midst of the race that we run. We limit ourselves and our abilities when we say that we ‘can’t’. It is easy to get caught up in the feelings or even the difficulty of the race we are running and want to give up.
And sometimes we need to do just that…to stop and to pull back and reassess. We need to catch our breath or we’ll fall down and not finish the race. Sometimes we need to slow down and walk a little bit of the way so we can consider the goal, regain our strength, and keeping on running.
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus is calling us.- Philippians 3:14
Every single race is one that should be bathed fully in prayer and by the pouring of His Word into our situations. We need the life-giving power of His Word in every single aspect of our lives. It is our sword, it is our shield and it is the armor we wear as we move ahead on the journey.
Because I am a prayer warrior, I can glimpse both the physical and mental barriers that can hold us back as we run. This life thing… it is hard. I am convinced it is not supposed to be easy either. And that is often hard to synthesize with the goals we make. Because we want to finish well, we want to conquer the difficult and defeat the bad. We want to be victorious in the end. Most of us purpose to complete our goals, if not come close to our estimated end. Yet falling short, missing the mark, ending early doesn’t necessarily mean we have failed. We often learn the most when we have to reassess and redefine and redo what we’ve already attempted to complete.
And because Jesus has already assured our status in His completed work, victory is encoded in our mindset. The work of the Cross enables us to keep running our race and to keep looking up and to keep picking up one foot after the other. Because He has already crossed the finish line, we can keep going until we cross it as well.
For whatsoever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith. – 1 John 5:4
The days preceding the race were busy, fun and yet still focused. And the day of the race was no different. However, our athletes were running in warmer weather that their bodies had not been accustomed to. As the day progressed, the spectators we were trying to position themselves along the route in order to push their athletes on, to cheer them and to encourage them to keep going. Because the kids look for us in the hard turns and the steep hills, they need us to pour out our encouragement and remind them they can do it…that they can keep going, they can run just a little further.
Because those miles can go by slowly when we are feeling defeated. It can feel like the end is far from our grasp when the difficulties seem bigger than the possibilities. And much like the race-of-life, we want to quit before we get to the end.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that set is set before us. – Hebrews 12:1
As I watched my daughter come up to the 2-mile-mark in the race, over half way but still so far to go to finish, I knew she was listening to the pain and the exhaustion instead of the affirmations scripted on her skin by her teammates. I had just watched 2 girls go down from heat exhaustion and her teammate run by me with the weight of her heart evident on her face.
The mom in me wanted to pull them both off and soothe their hurts. The runner in me wanted to correct their stride and tell them to breathe in and out in a cadence that would help them finish what they started. But the prayer-warrior in me remembered that we speak life into our lives when we unleash His life-giving Word over our situations.
She told me later that if I had not been at that exact place, if I had not yelled her name at that exact moment, if I had not reminded her that she could do all things in Christ Jesus, that she would have stopped and walked the hill in front of her. She was so tired. She was so hot. She was in pain. But hearing me call her name, hearing me quote God’s Word, hearing me cheer her one gave her the courage to dig deeper and to keep going.
For the Word of God is quick, and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword; piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.- Hebrews 4:12
Can I tell you something? I prayed about where I needed to be that day. I asked God to show me the most pivotal spot to position myself. And that 2-mile-mark was in a place I had to run like mad to get to before those runners. It was in an uncultivated, un-mowed, un-prepared for people, pasture full of thistles and sharp objects and hardened skeletons of last year’s vegetation. I wasn’t sure I would make it there before they did. I had to affirm myself as I ran over the weeds and watched out for the natural indentations in the way.
Sometimes we need to feel what each other feels. We need to breathe the air they are breathing. We need to look closely at the race that we are both running and remember that we all need to hear the life-words, the grace-words, the healing-words that keep us going.
If she would have walked, it would have been fine. Many of the athletes did that, continue to do that in a race. It is their strategy. The thing is, that it was just one race of many this season and her status didn’t matter as much to me as her ability to push through the hard because she knew she could. And she did. She finished the race. She passed a few and got passed as well, but she crossed that line. She marked off one more goal and she learned she could do difficult and hard things even when she felt like she had nothing left.
It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are the spirit, and they are life. – John 6:63
Her team got a 3rd place trophy. These kids are warriors and they worked hard for that trophy. They learned a lesson that it takes many of us years to figure out: Grace… it means loving one another, building one another up, encouraging each other with Truth. That is what got them to that line. That is what made it worth it.
And that is what we all need, as we gather and as we count grace together. The chance to root one another on, to build each other up, to run together over the thistles and the boulders and the ditches that threaten to trip us. To be right in the midst of running together towards the finish line Christ has set for us that we are able to look across the gaps in the journey and see when others are struggling to keep going. The race is not just our own but ours collectively and we need to be willing to run together and love one another through it and collect the #GraceMoments as we go.
Encouragement is a grace. It is an act of gratitude. It’s yet one more way we can clothe ourselves with Christ and equip one another on the journey. How are you being encouraged to finish the race you are running? How are you urging others on today?
IT’S YOUR TURN TO BE A GRACE COUNTER! SHARE YOUR GRACE MOMENT IN THE COMMENTS BELOW AND THEN COUNT GRACE WITH A FRIEND WITH COMMENT ON A BLOG OR TWO.
If you are a blogger, link up here with a post about finding grace moments in your life or one of your favorite inspiring and encouraging posts from this week. Share your thoughts in the comment section telling me about the #Grace Moments you experienced this week. *(only 1 post per link please)*
Take time to visit your neighbor next to you, and if you want visit a few more friends on the journey. We all need a little encouragement and affirmation as we travel together.
If you don’t have a blog, you can connect with me via my Journeys in Grace FB page by sharing a photo or a comment. Or you can join the party by sharing your images on Instagram with #Gracemoments hashtag.
Each week I will try visit as many of your amazing posts as I can.This is a safe place to sit and dwell in grace together, friends. I can’t wait to pour a cup of friendship with you and take in the grace moments you have to share. Don’t forget to leave a comment below, I love to hear from you.