As my husband and I hiked through the mountains of Tennessee on our honeymoon, the rushing creek caught my eye. It was raging, pushing water through at such an abundant force that it was magnificent! As I stood there, taking it all in, I noticed that not all of the water was being channeled all the way down. Next to me was a little pond of sorts, comprised of the overflow of the rushing waters. But these waters were calm and still – not a wave to be seen. I just stood there wondering why I was so mesmerized by this? Lord, is there something in this you are trying to teach me? Little did we know that those beautiful hikes through the mountains would be my last truly healthy days.
It has been almost seven years since I hiked through those mountains with my amazing love. Did we know what we were signing up for when we said ‘I do’? No. Do you ever? Did he know that the active girl who ran 7 miles almost every day is now the same girl that he has to help pull out of bed in the morning? No. But, we are stronger for it. We have gone through such trials and pain but even through it all, we have persevered.
Persevere…. you hear that word a lot, but what does it really mean? Well, here I go again being all nerdy and looking up definitions, but Webster’s Dictionary defines persevere: to persist in anything undertaken; maintain a purpose in spite of difficulty, obstacles, or discouragement; continue steadfastly. Now, look at that. To persist … in spite of difficulty…continue steadfastly. Does that mean that your struggle, your pain doesn’t exist or isn’t real? Does that mean you have to always have a smile on your face and never shed a tear to our Father? Absolutely not. Honey, it just means that we keep going- in SPITE of the pain, in SPITE of our difficulties, in SPITE of our obstacles. We continue STEADFASTLY. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because as we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. Romans 5:2b-4 So God’s word is showing us that through suffering, we find perseverance. And that perseverance helps us to build our character, our Godly character, to make our testimonies of our trials and storms able to reach others and to show the hope we have in Jesus Christ. Hope that He is all we need to survive any anguish life can throw at us, and boy life can sure throw us some wrenches can’t it?
Our son has Aspergers, which brings joys and trials of its own. He is such a hard nut to crack at times, but God has shown us that we have to have patience and perseverance when it comes to parenting him. The past few years, I thought it would be good for him to be in a team sport, but after trying a few options that definitely weren’t for him, we settled on cross country. Now, I don’t know if you have ever been to a cross country meet, but it’s WONDERFUL!! It is the most supportive, encouraging sport there is! Parents and students often line the course and cheer on ever runner – it doesn’t matter what school you go to. Everyone is encouraging everyone to persevere – in spite of the pain they are feeling, in spite of the fact that they want to quit. Everyone is encouraging them to keep on going no matter what! This is the perfect sport for our son – only he hates running. Well, see, he likes being around his friends but just doesn’t enjoy the running part so I just chalked it up to “Too bad, sweetie. This is good for you and you like being with your friends”. The bad part though, was that he wasn’t trying very hard on his times at his races. So I decided I would try a little experiment. At the last race of the season, I told him that IF he beat his last race time, I would get him a pack of cards from the store. (P.S. This was NOT a bribe. This is called an “incentive”. Feel free to use this at anytime). This was my journal entry from that day:
Oct. 14, 2015
Tonight was Eli’s last cross country meet of the season – he did incredible! He took off 3 ½ minutes off his time. If you are a runner, you know just how INCREDIBLE that is! 3 ½ minutes is a long time when you are running!! When I saw him coming down that hill towards the finish line, I couldn’t believe it. I looked down at the time and looked back at him. He was giving it his all – finally. I have stood at every finish line of every race this season and waited for this moment…. the moment he would finally give it everything he had and run no matter what. Despite his muscles screaming, despite being exhausted, despite only running because his mom signed him up for the team, but guess what? That boy ran like none of that mattered. And I bawled because I knew how much it truly did. I was so proud of him – the proudest I have ever been of that boy! I stood on the sidelines and cheered for him, encouraged him and even jumped up and down for him – I was so proud!! He finished close to last today, as he did most races. Did that matter to me? Nope. He gave it his all, finally, and that’s all that mattered to me.
I wonder if God feels the same way about me. There are unfortunately too many times where I am just chugging along, grumpy because I am in this place because someone else is making me do this. Do I have a good attitude? No. Am I giving it my all? No. Would that please God? No. But when I am truly seeking after him, my chugging along turns to a jog and then before you know it, I am in a full on sprint for that finish line. And guess who is right there cheering me on? God. He is jumping up and down cheering, maybe even tearful, because as I knew in Eli, He knew that I had it in me. Yes, there are times I hurt, times I want to quit, times I think someone’s just gonna have to drag me across the finish line, but as long as I keep going and sprinting towards my Savior, He is always gonna be my biggest cheerleader! Hmm…I wonder if He can do the splits….
Are you giving it your all today? IN SPITE of your circumstances, are you pushing through? Remember that raging water from our hike? For years, I was so discouraged to find I was in that little pool of water, off to the side. I so desperately watched others in the raging waters, doing great things for our Savior. They were leading bible studies and they were out in the mission fields. They were fighting those raging waters in an evil world and I so eagerly wanted to be a part of that. So, there I sat – stagnant in that pool for entirely too long. Until my son, my sweet son, taught me a very important lesson: to persevere with ALL my heart. Not just some of my heart. Not just wish I could get through this or even just pray I could. I had to persevere. I HAD to continue on my journey to reach those waters in SPITE of my circumstances. Jeremiah 29:13 says You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. God is PROMISING that when we seek Him with all our hearts, we WILL find Him. You know what I found out? That He was in that pool all along. Yes, the raging waters of ministry and bible studies are wonderful and so important and needed. BUT, where you are right now is very important too, because the battle you are persevering through is just as important to HIM.
I can now see that God placed me in that pool for a reason. Just as I knew it would be good for our son to be in cross country even though he didn’t want to, God knew what was best for me. I was being called to a time of rest – a time of healing, not only of my body, but of my heart. I had a lot to learn that only the quiet of the calm waters would be able to teach me. It was only until I began accepting the fact that I had to persevere that the real training begin.
My friend, I want to encourage to not give up. Keep going. You won’t be in this pond forever. That fast flowing water WILL be in your future. For now, just fight. Cling to Jesus, sweetie, and strive for that new time record. I promise He will be right there cheering you on… but you have to give it your all… and persevere.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12