I have never been an athlete. I often felt like I had two left feet while I was growing up and no gym classes ever convinced me otherwise. As I look at it now over my shoulder, I am aware that much of my awkwardness related to two primary things: 1) lack of exposure to a variety of sports activities and the opportunity to develop skills in them through practice; and 2) my negative view of myself that would rarely risk trying something.
I applauded my daughter when she decided at age 40 to begin running after helping her home school children learn to run a mile for a physical education goal. She had never done sports growing up, but rather focused on piano, singing, and theater. I watched as she pursued first a 5K and then gradually moved up her efforts until she was able to run in a half-marathon. Her determination showed me one does not need to be a born athlete to develop athletic skills.
As I was watching one of the Narnia movies recently Aslan caught my attention when he admonished Lucy in Voyage of the Dawn Treader, “You doubt your value. Don’t run from who you are.”
Lucy was caught up in the snare that many of us fall prey to of comparing herself to someone. In this case it was her beautiful older sister, Susan, and how much she wanted to look like her. Aslan reminded Lucy that it was she who had brought all of them to Narnia and to Aslan. He reminded her of the value and the importance of not running from who she was and what He had designed her to be and do.
Learning that truth can be a big leap for many of us even after we come to know the Lord. It can be easy to ignore or deny the evidence abundant in the Bible that a flawed or weak family background does not impede our usefulness to Him. We can also forget that stumbling after we have started following Him does not preclude His use of us either even though we have good company when we believe that. Just ask Peter!
When our thinking and belief takes us away from the truth of who we are not, but who we can be because of His grace and mercy we can be immobilized from risking being available to Him. It can be somewhat like standing in a jail cell and seeing ourselves as stuck even though the cell door is unlocked and open, waiting for us to walk out.
Hearing the Good News of the gospel often comes to us because the bad news has become crystal clear. We are not good enough and never can be good enough. Goodness does not reside in us, but only Him. What He wants from us first is our honesty with Him that comes from what we are willing to see about ourselves when we look in the mirror of His Word. What we are and have been doesn’t surprise Him! Adam and Eve’s major mess up didn’t leave Him wringing His hands and deciding to scrap the whole creation and start all over with a new man and woman.
If we start to think that, it reveals how little we understand that God’s love has never looked anything like ours. It is, after all, pretty amazing AND everlasting!
The race we cannot win? It’s when we try to run away from ourselves. You have likely heard that old saying, “wherever I go, there I am”.
The race to run away from us fuels our first step into addictions. On some level we cannot escape what we see about us or some aspect of our life. We want comfort and disconnection. We look for it in food, alcohol, drugs, shopping (known as retail therapy), romance novels, exercise, and sex. Tragically, each of those give us an initial sense of relief without a clue that the addiction can come to own us and leave us worse than when we began. When that happens, we add self-hatred to the mix and a greater assurance that no one can love us…not a holy God either. We can get stuck in self-condemnation with the enemy loudly agreeing with our assessment.
The enemy agrees because he never has understood salvation. It makes no sense to him at all because he always believed in his own perfection. He also never really got the power of God’s everlasting love or what it could accomplish.
38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39 ESV
It’s time to stop running in the race we cannot win!