Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Hosea 6:3
There's a scene in the Lord of the Rings when Elrond, King of Rivendell gives Andúril, the reforged sword from the shards of Narsil, to its rightful heir--a rogue who goes by the name Strider. But Strider is no ordinary ranger--he's Aragorn II, heir of Isildur and the rightful king. He's been resisting the shadows of Mordor as they spread throughout Middle Earth, but as a clandestine, solitary soldier.
The ancient elven king fears the growing darkness, indeed it's slowly killing his daughter. He knows who Strider is and believes the time has come for the young ranger to walk in the fullness of his kingship. To move from the shadows to the light, assemble an army that only he can lead and defend the land. Elrond offers this exhortation.
"Put aside the ranger and become who you were born to be."
Like Aragorn, we were born for a purpose. And like him there will be times for us to assume the sword that has been forged for our hands for the work we've been created to do. Our responsibility, indeed our privilege however, goes deeper than being someone great. It's about knowing someone great and letting His power flow through our lives.
Hosea calls to us from scripture: Let us know--let us press on to know the LORD.
Hosea exhorts us to know YAHWEH and he tells us to press on, twice. This is no casual meet and greet. We're going to have to fight for this relationship and probably for a lifetime. Pressing on through discouragement. Plowing through seasons of barrenness. Marching forward with laser-like focus when distractions, seductions and seasons of plenty threaten the veracity of our mission.
And when we do, we'll be able to join the Apostle Paul in saying, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me."
Because it's always about Him and knowing him--is what we were made for.
Put aside the ranger, and become who you were born to be.
Welcome to The Finish Lines. It's an odd name--I know, but it has deep significance for me. I hope you'll understand its purpose after reading this inaugural post. Mostly, I pray you'll find the content encourages you onward as your pursue finish lines of your own.
One evening, elbows deep in dishwater, house temporarily quiet, I was lamenting. I couldn't believe I had done it again. Why couldn't I be content with life? Just sit and enjoy the few stress-free moments that occasionally fall from the sky. But that's not how I roll. My modus operandi is to fill moments of respite with new mountains to climb (or be crushed by). Then kick myself for doing so. Presently, I moving towards two finish lines and pondering the effort it would take to cross them. My resolve was melting like a popsicle on a summer's day.
The first finish line was literal. I was training for a half-marathon and sought to set a personal record, which meant I couldn't take it easy on the trail. This wasn't about merely finishing--but finishing well. I was going to have run as fast as possible for 13.1 miles and recover well enough to celebrate my son's birthday afterward. (The darn race was on his birthday!) The other advancing finish line was even more significant. My family had completed our foster care application and we were preparing to welcome another child into our family. A broken child. I have a enough trouble parenting three unbroken ones.
Training for the half involved running about 20-25 miles a week in addition to weight training and flexibility drills. Preparing for Foster care meant traveling about 20-25 miles a week to attend classes and purchase various supplies while preparing to add extra weight in family members all the while anticipating being stretched beyond current capabilities. Both tasks lead to somber contemplation as I determined the practical, emotional, financial and spiritual implications. It turns out, they have a lot in common.
Who do I think I am?
To be fair, most times I think I'm capable. But because I push myself, I know my limits. And that's what was disconcerting. I actually know I'm not that great.
Sensing the forthcoming transition--I was overwhelmed, terrified and regreting both registering for the race and the desire for fostering. Why had I done this to myself? Fear of the unknown loomed before me like a great fanged monster. It spoke loud can clear: What you seek is unattainable. Especially by you.
Have you ever felt that? Heard that? Said that? It's disconcerting--mostly because it's true. But more on that later.
In my thirties, God gave me a love for fitness. The seeds were sown long before but somehow--many years after what should've been my prime--he called the abilities and the desire forth. It certainly helped that my family is in the wellness business--following an unhealthy lifestyle wasn't optional when we sought to motivate others to wellness. But even so, the Holy Spirit moved me beyond merely eating salads and endless cardio on an elliptical, to mindful workouts with a personal trainer, to running a few miles then half marathons and now powerlifting. I got faster, stronger and drastically improved my endurance.
When training for a long run, you do a lot of things that look difficult, depressing and strange. Like getting up early to collect miles only to be pelted by rain and nearly turned into roadkill by distracted drivers. You sacrifice sleep and free time. You learn what to eat and when to eat to maximize performance--and spare a gurgling stomach. You spend many hours alone, rubber soles to pavement--mile after mile. I can't even say I love running. So why do it?
Difficult and depressing could also represent aspects of Foster care, particularly when learning the stories of hurting children. It's strange that me and my husband, with no prior experience with children from traumatic backgrounds (I hadn't even taken a first aid class for goodness sakes!) or any knowledge of family court would knowingly, willingly and completely naively, plunge headlong into a world of abandonment, abuse and accusation. Furthermore, every need I've ever had regarding mothering has been fully met in the joy and responsibility of parenting our three epic bio kids. So why do it?
And that was the question on my heart, elbows deep in dishwater, that temporarily quiet night.
On an ordinary night, doing an ordinary task, I received an extraordinary answer. The Holy Spirit spoke to me, and said:
"It's for the finish."
The answer to my mind's riddle was as simple as it was obvious. While I can't say I love running, I can say I love, Love, LOVE the elation, satisfaction and relief that's waiting on the other side of that finish line--especially (only?) when I've ran my very best. It's so enduringly wonderful that it more than makes up for all challenging miles that precede it. It's so good, I keep signing up for more races.
I'm moving towards another finish line too. An eternal one that promises eternal relief and indestructible joy. A relationship that was started on this side will be made full on the other. I was created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand for me to walk in (Ephesians 2:10). He sent his Spirit to teach me everything I need to know to glorify the Father (John 14:26). And he who began a good work in me--will see it though. (Philippians 1:6). Everything includes ameteur races, foster parenting and all the juicy stuff in between.
My hope is not in my own abilities--I know my limits. It's my position in Christ--that grants me the strength to do what I was born to do (Philippians 4:13).
My training was great preparation for the race. I set a new personal record, shaving nearly two minutes off my best time, maintained mental clarity throughout the race, celebrated my son's birthday like a boss and my post-race recovery--involved little more than a sunburn. (Washington isn't supposed to be sunny in June.)
We completed our Foster care training, passed the home-licensing process and in the process cleaned, organized and redesigned our home to be more functional and beautiful than ever. More importantly, I have my answer to why I do, what I do. It's for the finish.
"Lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles and run with endurance the race set before you. "