Gratitude. I’m really feeling it these days. Not that everything is going perfectly in my life ~ I am not expecting that it ever will be completely perfect! But when I take a moment and consider all that I have to be grateful for, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed.
A few years ago, during a particularly tough season for our family, the kids and I were making the long drive home from Los Angeles to South Orange County. Sadness hung in the air of the car like L.A. smog on the foothills. My chest felt so tight because I just didn’t know what to say to lift their spirits. I finally had to break the silence.
“Hey, why don’t we each say something we are grateful for, just one thing. I will start. I am grateful for toilet paper.” I got a little chuckle out of them anyway. But, seriously, who isn’t grateful for toilet paper? It’s just not something we talk about!
The kids each said something they were grateful for and then I started the process over again. We continued like this the whole way home. Along the way we found that we were grateful for blind people because they don’t judge others by how they look, we were grateful for butterflies, cars, food, each other and God and so many other things that have long been forgotten.
What wasn’t forgotten was how much we had to be grateful for on that day, in spite of unmet expectations. We never did turn on the radio, talk about our problems or pain, nor did we complain or blame; we just simply spoke words of gratitude for over an hour. By the time we pulled in our driveway we were each feeling a whole lot better. It was the best driving game we have ever played ~ better than “I Spy” and counting VWs.
Gratitude is a wonderful balm for the wounds that we will inevitably experience in our lives, from the annoying little scratches to the ones that cut to the bone. Are you experiencing some pain or unmet expectations in your life right now? Why not start a game of gratitude and begin the healing process!
Races. I have never been a track and field girl. No, in high school, cheerleading was my sport of choice, and any running I did was probably after some boy! But a few years ago my daughter started running in half-marathons and I began to think that making it through a half-marathon might be a worthwhile goal. Notice I didn’t say “run” a half-marathon ~ the goal at my current level of fitness is just to cross the finish line! And now, I am just a couple of weeks away from joining my daughter in my first race…ever!
Setting up a training schedule, even for a beginner like me, seemed like a good idea. During this time of preparation, as I logged in hours on the treadmill, I was often reminded of the times that God uses a race as a metaphor for life in the Bible. In particular, I thought of the part of scripture in the book of Hebrews that says, “…let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”
God doesn’t tell us how fast or how slow we are to run the race, instead He tells us we should run with perseverance. He knows that, just as in a marathon, our pace through life is going to vary for each of us and will vary even during different seasons of our own lives. He also knows that there are going to be times when we will want to give up, as I have felt like doing many times about an hour into my workout! Sometimes I will even ask myself, why? Why am I even doing this? It takes perseverance to stay the course, regardless of how long it takes you to finish.
Unlike signing up for a marathon where we can select the length of our run, God doesn’t let us know ahead of time how long our race will be. Some lives are sprints, some cross-country marathons ~ in life it is not up to us to determine the length of the race; that is for God to determine. We can only decide the manner in which we will run the course set out for us, a course that has been uniquely created for each of us by God.
So how do we run well? How do we persevere when the course gets steep and we grow weary? We do so by “…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” You see, to finish well we must focus on the right trainer. Who is your trainer? For the race of life, Jesus is the perfect trainer!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3