There is a certain monotony to running. That study cadence, the motion that repeats for minutes and hours and...well, as long as you tell it to continue. Toward the end of that race, every muscle in my body hurt, and no amount of adrenaline or fear could have forced me to speed up. I was done. And yet, I couldn't quit, so I lost myself in the cadence. Left, right, left, right, thump thump thump.
As I waddled across the finish line, I thought of Paul's comparison of the Christian life to a race. It is an easy analogy to make...so many parallels to be drawn. The one that stuck with me that day, though, was the HARDNESS of it all. The moments of aching until you think you won't be able to go on, the weariness that leaves you dreaming of the nap that will most definitely follow, the watching other runners zoom past you and longing to have the kind of endurance and energy they seem to possess in immeasurable quantities...the race is just flat out HARD. And so is following Jesus. He didn't try to sugarcoat it, and I won't either. It is HARD. There are moments of physically or emotionally aching until I don't think I can go on. There is often a weariness that leaves me dreaming and longing for eternity...for eternal rest. There are the times when I get caught up watching others seemingly fly by with success and ease I cannot find. It's hard.
But the hardness does not make it wrong. In fact, I wonder if ease is an indicator that something might be out of balance. Because carrying a cross is certainly not easy, and yet that is exactly what Jesus tells us to do.
For the last year, I have been laboring and dreaming and planning and working toward a vision I believe in to the core of who I am. I believe in the vision of Safe Families for Children. I believe in keeping families together where possible. I believe in coming alongside parents who are struggling. I believe in loving and folding kids into families. I believe in it. But don't misunderstand me...it is HARD. It is hard to share the vision with others in a way they will understand. It is hard to empower and equip families to join the call and open their homes to kids who need a temporary home. It is hard to look around and wonder why other ministries seem to be finding so much more response and success. It is hard to have meeting after meeting and vision cast until I am blue in the face, but have people trickle into ministry rather than pour. It is hard.
If I am gut-level honest, I sometimes (often?) question if the mission is worth it. I ask myself, "How much do I give before it is too much?" Tonight, as I have prayed over this weariness that blankets my soul, Jesus convicted me to my toes. I want the easy life. I want the quick fix, the cheap solution.
I say I am willing...but I define the parameters.
I say I will be patient...within the confines of my time table.
I say I will take big risks...as long as I control what they are.
I say I will give up my dreams...if I can have something better.
I operate on conditions I name, and call it following Jesus. And yet...that's not how it works. Jesus defines the parameters, and they are usually far beyond any we would set for ourselves.
What about you...are you living in the comfort and ease of your own parameters? Or are you allowing Jesus to define the call and set the pace? The race is never easy...but it was never supposed to be either.