On Sunday I ran a half marathon. When I approached the finish line I heard some familiar voices. One deep and the other soft. The deep one belonged to a tall, dark, handsome stud called Husband. The soft one is two years old and she was excited to be at the finish line. Although cold, she had her little fists in the air cheering for her mama. Later in the day, we talked about what it was that she was the most thankful for that day.
Thoughtfully she said, “I’m thankful foooor… the finish line!” Her sweet little voice back dropped with a round, contemplative face had spoken. And her words penetrated my soul.
The truth in her statement, of course, made me smile. Without knowing it, my little one had spoken profound words.
Yes, sweet girl; I, too, am thankful for the finish line.
But the more I pondered her gratitude, the more I realized that, while true, it had a giant gaping hole in it. No, I don’t expect a toddler to understand the big, big world and the meaning it all holds; but I, as a grownup (although a reluctant one sometimes) know that there is more to be thankful for than just the finish line.
I want to be thankful for the miles before.
I have spent over a year contemplating, planning, organizing, researching and writing a book. It’s very personal and I’m still a few months out of completion, but I’m learning a lot.
I’m learning about this writing and blogging industry, but I’m also learning about myself, my history, and my God.
You see, this book is about my family. It’s about my oldest sister, it’s about my mom, it’s about my dad, and it’s about some of the tough stuff. It’s about the ugly of life that, for so long, I packaged up in a tidy wrapper and tucked in to the deepest pockets of my heart and slapped a big red sticker on it that said “open at your own risk.”
The truth is my sister died on March 16, 1989. In the physical sense my sister survived the car accident that sent her into the windshield of the truck she was riding in. With impossible gratitude to a witness to the car accident who stopped, pulled her from the vehicle, and brought her back until paramedics arrived I am able to say she is alive. But she did not survive.
In a relational sense, she died that day. Let me clarify. The person that was pulled from the wreckage was not the same 10-year-old little girl that climbed in. My parents will say that was how they moved forward after the tragedy. They had to put one foot in front of the other somehow and letting go of the daughter they had and embracing the one in front of them was easier done by nearly completely separating the two.
Maybe you can relate. Maybe you woke up this morning and the air was crisp and the blankets felt great and your heart swelled with joy. Maybe you woke up with a laugh on your lips and a song in your head. Maybe you were able to give the cutest kids a hug and kiss your dear husband goodbye when he left for work. And maybe, maybe, you thought to yourself, “today is a good day.”
Then, maybe, maybe, piece by piece the joy was stripped away. And suddenly you felt colder than the air outside. Or maybe it felt more like one tiny stone at a time being laid on your shoulders, light at first then heavier and heavier.
You knew they were stacking up, but you put your head down and moved forward any way. Maybe you flinched every time a new stone was dropped and you felt the tension reaching your ears but you ignored it thinking, “there’s simply too much to do.”
And now, its mid-afternoon and you wonder what happened. Where the joy went. Where the peace went. Where the laughter went. Where the song went. You know this isn’t a feeling another cup of coffee can fix (although it wouldn’t hurt), so you try that first. Then it, too, grows cold.
It’s not yet evening here on the front and the sun is casting lines across the floor in an early evening warmth. We are coming off several festive weeks filled with parties, food, and gift giving. It was a beautiful time of year but somehow had a way of highlighting our weaknesses. This year, in our service to our Lord, the colorful, twinkling lights of the festival shot rays through the fractures in our framework – some big, others barely noticeable.
We know that these fractures are merely reminders of the Lord’s ongoing work in the hearts of the children, and ourselves, but we are also aware of our duty to mend, repair, and strengthen these gaps in our training.
What we are so aware of is that we walk a fine line between training disciples in deed and discipling the heart. Our primary goal is not to cultivate good people, but redeemed people; not to encourage morals, but to encourage godliness.
As we know, good behavior is not the desired end, although it is a side benefit, but it is a knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that lies front, center, and alone on our vision board. No matter our striving, it is He who has set a standard of perfection that we cannot attain.
Therefore, we lose the hold we have on striving for goodness and, instead, pursue the cultivation of a redemptive relationship with Him in the hearts of even our youngest disciple. Out of that relationship, we earnestly pray, will come Christ-driven morality, but we must confess that we find ourselves putting the proverbial cart before the horse.
I am making only one resolution this year and it is this:
I RESOLVE to keep my gaze transfixed on Jesus’ face.
Have you ever gotten lost in someone’s face – in the subtle recognition or mystery in their eyes? Maybe when you were holding your newborn baby for the first time or when you stood with the one you love saying your vows.
These are pivotal, earth-shattering, trajectory-altering, heart-wrecking moments when we get lost in someone’s face. We are seduced, wooed, drawn in, and captivated. Or we are trapped, snared, tricked, and caught in the current of things that can destroy us.
I can easily get lost looking in my daughters’ eyes. Yet, painfully, I can just as easily get lost looking at all the things I want to be…
To look like.
This year, I am resolved to be resolved to nothing else but to my Jesus.
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