"I can't stand it, Dad! I just can't look! Why are these poor boys torturing themselves?"
"I love it," My dad heartlessly replied. "They're giving it their all. I'm challenged by them. This is real sports!"
He was almost giddy as we watched several young men writhing in the grass trying to catch their breath. Other high school guys were puking or flailing their arms in delirium. I overheard one of my brother's teammates describing the hallucinations he saw "in the death zone."
I was about to lose it...whether that meant throwing up or crying my eyes out, I wasn't sure, but one thing I did know: I will never stand near the finish line at a cross country race again.
Even still, I think my distaste for true athleticism hurts me in many ways. I've seen verses like 2 Timothy 4:7 and Hebrews 12:1 slapped onto T-shirts and used almost as gimmicks by Christian coaches during pep talks before a big race. However, it wasn't until I saw how the top runners truly spent themselves that I appreciated the Bible's sports-related metaphors.
As I watched the boys "catch their breath" (to say it conservatively), the Hebrews 11 heroes of faith as well as heroes throughout church history that I've read about came to mind: George Muller, Sarah Edwards, Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, Adoniram Judson, Helen Rosevare...I imagined them finishing this race of the Christian life to reach Christ, fall at His feet, and puke all over the place in exhausted relief because they had spent every ounce of strength they had during their time here.
I feel like I, on the other hand, wouldn't even be breathing heavy because I have wasted so much of my life just trying to be as comfortable as possible. My issue isn't even primarily with seeking physical comforts such as keeping the AC on 75 or whining if something isn't dishwasher-safe (I pride myself with having gone three months without a microwave recently.)
The major place I see the luxurious I-deserve-comfort mindset in my life is when marriage or parenting is hard; the thing I seem to want most out of the difficulty is relief, not for God to be made known to myself and others more truly. I want the problem gone; growth and depth are not priority in those moments.
Recently my husband Peter had a day off work, and we just stayed home and relaxed for once. I even took a nap. It was awesome. As we were going to sleep, I begged Peter to never work again so we could have such relaxing days all the time. "This life is not our rest," he gently reminded me.
How true a statement! God has not only provided but commanded that we take a day of rest every week, and sometimes it's good to even have short seasons of rest to recharge so we can be more effective. However, those days only look to the Day when our souls will be able to rest in enjoyment of Christ forever. (As Shai Linne says in his song "Fal$e Teacher$", "If you're living your best life now, you're heading for hell!")
1 Corinthians 15:58 charges us to "always be abounding in the work of the Lord."
Proverbs 14:23 says "In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty."
I could point to numerous other verses (especially in Proverbs) that highlight the value of a lifestyle marked by hard work. Better yet, the Bible emphasizes hard work done "heartily, as for the Lord and not for men" (Colossians 3:23.)
In fact, I have found that the times I get most bored with my work is when I'm not working very hard. If my goal as a stay-at-home-mom is "a pretty tidy house", "decent meals", and "keeping my child alive", I'll probably spend my days rolling around wishing I was doing something actually stimulating. I put the blame on the monotony and mindlessness of my job, not on the lack of effort and motivation on my part. I'll be tempted to think things like "I wish I could be doing something more exciting than this. My mind is made for greater work than this."
Indeed, there will be times (like when there's a newborn, sickness, etc.) when keeping my kids alive and having sandwiches for dinner will be all I can do. But I've found that when my goal is to spend myself for Jesus, most of the time it's definitely possible for that to look like a clean, organized, and beautiful home...nutritious, delicious, and economical meals...a disciplined, educated, and loved child...and it's truly a thrilling challenge to try to do all those things! That doesn't even cover investing in relationships outside our home or practicing hospitality! As I learn to grow and excel in all these areas, I find that my job (the butt of many jokes by people who have "real" jobs) is very intellectually stimulating!
So I think it's possible, even if all I am for the rest of my life is a homemaker, to cross the finish line as a true athlete, spent and useful. I look again to Hebrews 12:1 and find my greatest hope in the verse that doesn't make it on the athletic T-shirts:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:1,2
The heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 and throughout church history ran their race with endurance, for sure, but only because their gaze was on the One who not only created and referees the race, but who entered our race and ran with joy, spending Himself to the uttermost for His glory and our good. I think this is even exemplified on the cross, when He did not take the wine mixed with myrrh (which would've helped dull His pain) but He did accept the sour wine, which prolonged His pain. He spared no expense for us. What a wonderful Jesus to whom we can look as we labor!
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising little people ages 5, 3, 1, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and sarsaparilla, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today