Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Endurance Training

When I left off last night, I went home feeling defeated despite my desire to feel any different. Let’s be honest, we are human and we often have no control over our emotions. We’ve established that I’m an emotional person, so reality says I’m am just going to have times where I am down and have to accept that the sun doesn’t always shine. Take today for instance; we are being hit by a tropical storm. It is almost pitch black out, rain is coming down in sheets and the trees are holding their ground against the wind. It seems hard in times like this to remember the calm. It doesn’t mean those sunshiny, bright days don’t exist, it just means we have to wade through a whole lot of water to get there.

When I came into work today, I brought a change of clothes with me. It’s raining really hard, I have a small car, my street and townhome drive tend to flood. There’s a good chance I have no way to get home tonight. I brought provisions incase that is what happens. I don’t want to be stuck with no other options. That got me thinking, I haven’t given myself much in the way of spiritual provisions.

I’m a lazy person. I admit I don’t like to work out and don’t really. If I have to run, it is an extremely uncomfortable experience. I have asthma & allergies on top of that (I know, sucks right??) so when I do run, I have a hard time breathing. Like anyone who is out of shape, I get tired after a couple of minutes and have to stop to catch my breath. I have no endurance. If I ran everyday, after a while running wouldn’t be as bad (I’m still not convinced it would be fun, haha). My body would become acclimated to the experience. On top of that, the way I eat, plan my time; etc would change because I would be adding the consequences of those actions to how it would affect my endurance. The same would be true of spiritual endurance.

I have been running headfirst to Christ now that I’m miserable. I have been listening to nothing but Christian music, reading books about God, choosing to spend my time more focused on God to get me through. These are good things, but honestly they are really just being done because I am in a season of desperation. Don’t get me wrong; this is undoubtedly where God wants me. But what about when things get easier? What about the days to come when I won’t spend much of the day feeling bad or crying? What about when I no longer am in this season of suffering? We want to get out of these tough times, but what is there afterward?

The idea of spiritual endurance and how much I lack it reminded me of something Francis Chan said in “Crazy Love”. He said: “When you are pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have the opportunity to wonder, Am I doing this right? When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love, and give thanks without guilt, worry, or fear. As long as you are running, you are safe. But running is exhausting-if, that is, we are running from sin or guilt, out of fear. (Or if we haven’t run in a while.) However, if we train ourselves to run toward our Refuge, toward Love, we are free-just as we are called to be. As long as we are pursuing Him, we are satisfied in Him. It is when we stop actively loving Him that we find ourselves restless and gravitating toward other means of fulfillment.”

So, how do you pursue this idea of spiritual endurance? I think God told me last night it is to stop just coming to Him to take my pain away. Yes, He undoubtedly wants us to run to Him when we are struggling, but if we only do that, we fall into this lifestyle of letting God only pick up the pieces when we are broken, not mold the shape we are growing into. God is showing me I have spent way too much of my life doing just that. I have no intentionality when I seek God, or worse I do and it’s my benefit, my gain. But God didn’t come to save the world so we could get what we want; he came to save us from the death our way leads us to.

Last night I allowed myself to break down and imagine what life would be if I could have my way. If the dreams I had for myself could come true. It was momentarily satisfying. But then I realized to have those dreams come true, to get the life I imagined, I had to be someone else. I would have to be the old me, living the old way I lived life. The problem is those dreams require a change in the wrong direction. Those dreams were built in a time where I wanted things for me, about me, with my happiness in mind. Don’t get me wrong, I still want them and some of them I do believe are the desires God has put on my heart that He will one day provide, but only when He has me where He wants me. I realize now what I need is a change of perspective.

Coincidently (seriously God is just funny sometimes), I was looking through my books for something to read last night, for a shift of focus, and I came across a book I have called “Perspectives: A Spiritual Life Guide For Twentysomethings”. I had read it years ago (when I was in my early twenties as opposed to the late twenties I am now). I started reading and was amazed to think back on how I viewed life then versus now: how much I am still waiting for & wanting the same things, but how differently I view & feel about them. I will hopefully have more to share on this, but I forgot the book at home and honestly, in the time since I started writing today (this is the first day that I have written over the course of the day instead of just at the end), God has already changed my focus to another idea (or rather back to the one I started with).

I got an email from Relevant Magazine that has multiple columns and articles written for and by the Christian community. One column caught my eye called “What it means to wait on the Lord” and I highly recommend you go check it out:


So much of this article is spot on what God has been telling me the last couple of days (but especially since last night). The writer illustrates her struggle with waiting for the Lord to answer her prayers & give her life fulfillment by taking her to the next place she is supposed to be. A relative of hers says, “when you pray, pray to get to know Christ. Prayer is about knowing our Father in heaven.” She remarks that “Yes, I had been waiting on the Lord…but for Him to come through for me with a job, a plan, anything that came up, just something more than waiting on the Lord.” She said, “I had an agenda each time I prayed. My prayers did not reveal a satisfaction in God but a dissatisfaction with Him. I knew I could trust Him, but I prayed as though my plans were wiser and better than His. I prayed as though I did not trust Him.”

Through reading this article I realized this is exactly what I have been doing all my life. I’m standing here attempting to learn to surrender, but I true surrender starts with a change of heart. It’s a trust issue. It relies on me not just trusting God has my future in His hands, but that my every day is made for His glory.

The author goes on describe something she had read about waiting. “When you’re waiting, you’re not doing nothing. You’re doing the most important something there is. You’re allowing your soul to grow up. If you can’t be still and wait, you can’t become what God created you to be.” That last part literally stopped me in my tracks. So what you’re saying God is that I keep looking at this part of my life as the part to work on and conquer til I’m ready for the next step and you’re telling me that this is the only step that matters?

All day I kept getting this thought that I wanted to write about and then it would disappear. I would stop and try to remember and then nothing, so I would just go onto what I need to do. As, I kept writing, God reminded me of it just now. That I am ONLY responsible for TODAY. Haha, knowing me, I probably blocked it out because I don’t want to remember that. Maybe, just maybe, this is why I am fighting so hard against surrendering, because this is just a foreign concept. The thought that today is all I get to plan, all I can ask for help for, all I can hope to survive, that’s scary. But let’s be honest, right now is really all we are guaranteed anyway. I don’t know for certain there will be a tomorrow, for me or any of us. I have been so focused on my tomorrow (well the tomorrow that things will feel ok again, whenever that is), that I keep missing my chance for God to help me with my today. I’m so focused on the future, that I’m letting my present slip by. I’m letting my days be meaningless because they aren’t the way I want. My previously mentioned “plan” for conquering my fears was asking too much. Was looking to make me ok everyday instead of depending on God to make me ok TODAY.

A friend told me today I have a lot of discipline because I have been posting every day. I don’t really map out what I am going to write about, I have just been noticing a trend in what God is telling me and going with that. It’s funny because I feel like I have always been interested in writing but never felt like I had anything to write about. Now I have so much I’m wrestling with myself about things to pass on for those that are more important or have a greater significance in my struggle. I know that most likely will not always be the case, because I will not be as receptive as I am when I’m desperate. However, as I grow a greater spiritual endurance, hopefully God will continue to teach me and reveal things to me about Himself, myself, and “to my new perspective of becoming something out of seemingly nothing”.

It’s only 3pm and I had intended to write over the course of the day. I'm stopping here because not only is this one getting a bit lengthy, but I don’t want to just write to write. I want to experience firsthand what God is leading me to write here. My goal until tomorrow is to stop and listen to God today. Hope you do too.

Oh and by the way, the rain has stopped and the sun is shining, even if it’s just for a little while, all is calm.

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