Will and I visited family in Knoxville for the 4th, and we went on a jog along the “crazy path”. It’s a running path that winds along the Tennessee River in a beautiful area of ball fields and rolling hills. The locals call it “crazy” because it circles a place that was once an insane asylum. It is also crazy because there is a ridiculously, steep, long, winding hill at the end of the four miles. Before you can spot the finish, you battle the crazy.
This path has its unique challenges, but all races have the same elements. The start is hopeful, the middle is steady, the finish is awesome adrenaline, but the stretch right before the end is the hardest part. It’s when endurance and perseverance are tested.
It’s the “already, but not yet”; the place right before the victory. The place of struggle right before the captive is set free, right before the addict comes clean, the stretch of night right before dawn, right before the breakthrough. It’s where doubt takes its final jab at you before it loses you forever. It’s the place of process that paints the promise. Your flesh is weak, your mind is strong, your faith is secure, the finish is absolutely guaranteed, but you’re not there yet. And in that place is the fight.
In many ways, it’s where we all are. Jesus has redeemed our souls, called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light, made us brand new, perfected our spirits and guaranteed the finish with him free from the presence of all sin and death. But, we are here living in our flesh in this broken world. We are citizens of heaven, but not there yet.
And so, when I got to this place on that insane hill, I pushed hard. I was on fire thinking of writing an inspiring blog post on endurance through hardship (because I write in my mind while I run and have crossed many finish lines lately in the Lord’s strength) and as I headed up that quarter mile of crazy, something totally surprising happened…I quit. Runners were briskly walking downhill facing me and I could see their acknowledgment of my struggle. I felt it. Pride crept in, shame crept in, my legs gave out, and I quit.
I hung my head down and walked the rest of the way up to the finish line, defeated. Was my faith not strong enough today? Why could my mind not overcome my body? I knew the truth that I was strong enough to do it, and yet I fell short. The July heat added pressure and I buckled.
And then, in that moment as I sauntered to the end of the path in self pity, I felt God gently whisper, “Lift your head up, my girl…I love you just the same. Today is a part of the journey. I will never leave you. I will make you stronger. I will finish what I’ve started. You may have quit today, but I will never quit on you. My mercies are new each morning. My grace is enough. We’ll try again. Seasons will change, this heat will lift and we’ll come back to this same place, and to all the places, victorious. You’ll see.”
And, I can see it. I believe without a doubt, we will make it up the crazy hill. In my mind it has already happened…just not yet.
“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”
Psalm 3:3 NIV
“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
Philippians 1:6 NLT