I have struggled with this week's blog. I have started over at least five times and even now can't seem to get my head and my heart to align on a single train of thought. I wish I could say that this is an isolated, one of a kind thing, but anyone who read last week's blog knows that life for me these days is less than picture perfect (as if it ever was). And so I just keep plugging on.
I learned a lot about perseverance in 1975....yes, that 1975. I had decided to participate in a bike-a-thon to help raise money for the American Heart Association. I badgered all my friend's parents to pledge an amount of money per mile that I rode. Whenever anyone asked me how far I planned to ride I told them that I was going to ride 100 miles. Most folks would look at me as if I was crazy (I was) and say something like "right..." I certainly inspired confidence.
So the day of the bike-a-thon came and I was there at the starting line at the starting time. The weather was nice and there were a lot of kids riding that day.There were lots of people to ride with ad to talk to. We started the bike-a-thon with a lot of excitement. It was fun.
For a while.
The crowds began to thin out about three hours into the ride. As the day went on it became harder and harder to find people to ride with. I was committed to making my 100 mile goal and had even gone so far as to calculate how quickly I needed to make my way around the 10 mile course in order to make my goal in the time allowed. With people to ride with I had no problem keeping up with my time goals. But as the number of riders dwindled it became harder and harder.
So I changed my strategy. Instead of riding with someone all the time I decided to "hunt" other riders. I would spot another rider well ahead of me on the course and would push myself to catch them within a certain distance or time. But it worked. I pedaled and pedaled and pedaled until I would catch someone or I would set myself a time limit to ride from one checkpoint to another. In short, I just kept pedaling, plugging along, committed to achieving my goal
And I'm proud to say that I did. In fact, I finished my 100 miles with more than an hour to go in the bike-a-thon. I could have ridden more, but my rear end was really sore and so I went home. As I remember, I was the only person in our local race (and maybe in the whole state of Arkansas) who rode 100 miles that day. And all because I just kept pedaling.
Perhaps that's one of the most important lessons for me in the midst of all the turmoil of late. I need to keep plugging. Somehow Christians have come to believe that life should be a wide, easy path lined with shade trees and flowers. But that's a lie and couldn't be farther from the truth. Life in this fallen world is hard enough, and when you factor in the opposition that we as believers face from a world that doesn't love us it gets even harder. But ease is not and has never been a mark of blessing or favor. Jesus said that we should expect difficulty. Paul said that he struggled with himself to be faithful. John was exiled as an old man because of his faith. So why do I think I should get a pass?
If you would allow me to be so bold...we shouldn't desire ease and comfort. They don't make us fit for anything. The writer of Hebrews likened our faith lives to a race, calling on us to strip off the things that would slow us down with following Jesus. Faith is a marathon, not a sprint, and there are few rest stops along the way. The path is narrow, steep, and difficult, but the lessons it imparts are more valuable than any treasure.
So don't get discouraged, don't grow weary, and most of all don't give up. Brace yourself for the struggle. Look to Jesus and find your rest and hope in him.
If I can do it, you can too.