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Posts Tagged ‘perserverance’


St. Simons Island Lighthouse in Georgia.

“We’re almost there,” my son’s voice floated down to me as I was climbing what must have been my 115th step on the curving staircase, but that step felt more like my 1 millionth.

At the bottom of the lighthouse steps, at St. Simons Island Lighthouse, a sign said there were 129-steps that we needed to climb before we got to the top and were able to see the ocean where the light still shines at night to warn ships that they are getting too close to the shore.

But, as I climbed the steps the fact that the light helped ships was the last thing on my mind. When we first started I counted the steps, but at about 10 I decided that was a bad idea considering that we were climbing in the close, heavily humid Southern air and knowing the step I was on might not help me in the long run.

So, I took one well maintained black metal step at a time, listening to the wheeziness of my asthmatic lungs along with the flip flap of my son’s flip flop shod feet as he walked the steps somewhere above me.

At every landing, he would stop and wait for me, and, we’d look out a small window at the ever smaller trees, houses and cars below and the lengthening ocean in front of us.

When you’re in a small space like that and all you can see is the step you’re on along with the couple of steps you will be on, it’s hard to imagine that there is an end to them. So, when my son’s unprompted words dropped down to me, I thought he might just be encouraging me to just keep going and the top was somewhere way far above us.

Staircase inside the lighthouse at St. Simons Lighthouse in Georgia.

But, I was wrong, he wasn’t just trying to encourage me to keep going (as if I had a choice with the type of person I am, I’ve climbed to the top of more seemingly unclimbable staircases in my travels than I’d like to admit) as I rounded the corner, I saw the door at the top that led to the outside.

It was just a rectangle with a little slice of blue sky peeking through, but it was a wonderful sight to see. My son was already out on the little walkway that ran around the lighthouse. As I stepped out next to him and we felt the breeze and saw the beautiful view, I thought the walk up was definitely worth it even if I couldn’t see anything but black steps on the way.

I was reminded of something a woman I greatly admire told me. She said that sometimes the LORD just points a little flashlight at our feet and where the light is, is where we should step.

As I stood there at the top of the lighthouse, I thought of her words and the fact that on the way up all I really saw was the step or two in front of me, but continuing on those steps one at a time I was taken to a beautiful place, but to get there I had to keep on taking those steps. And, his is how the LORD is with us when we start walking with Him, He provides the steps for us to walk on. And, in due time, one step at a time, sometimes after many steps and much exhaustion, He delivers us into the beauty of His full presence.

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”

1 Corinthians 9:25

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. Even though kids nowadays are inundated with chances to play video games, watch TV or just tweet or text their friends, there are those times when they play honest to goodness games just like any other kids through history.

Some of the old standby’s are still played on playgrounds all over the place, like hopscotch, four square, red rover and dodge ball. The last of which always seemed to me to harken back to the Spartans idea of fun and games, otherwise known as how to train for war, except with a little less pain and bloodshed than those ancient Greeks may have indulged in.

At any rate, games are games and the objective of them is still to win, and to make sure that you do whatever is within the rules of the game to do so.

My son came home from his jr. high youth group this week after having spent most of the time playing games. That is according to him. I’m sure there was some sort of Bible teaching in there somewhere because I know the leader pretty well. But my son, whose whole life seems to be focused on figuring out how to play and have fun, insisted that all they did was play a lot of different games, including one called Statues.

I had never heard of that particular game. So, he explained to me that they had to run from the start point to the finish line, and every time their leader called out freeze, they had to freeze in whatever position they were in, just like statues.

It painted a picture in my mind of those amazing European gardens surrounding castles and palaces  like Hever Castle in England and  Versailles in France, where you come across these amazing white marble statues that look like they were frozen just in the middle of an action in the garden. It also reminded me of the White Witch’s courtyard in C.S. Lewis‘ “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” where the White Witch routinely froze her adversaries into cold, white marble statues who were eventually freed by the breath of Aslan.

Other than the somewhat vivid visuals dancing around my mind, I didn’t really think of the game again until my son went to bed, and I went in to tuck him in and kiss him goodnight. I brushed the hair back from his forehead and saw a faint bruise there.

Now, lest you think I’m a totally unobservant mother who didn’t notice such a thing (although there are days when this is true, that day was not one of them), I have to explain that my son has enough hair to cover ten, maybe more, heads, and his bangs lay thickly on his forehead making it pretty much impossible to see through them unless you brush them to the side.

So, I asked him how he got it. His answer? “Playing statues.” This begs the question of how you get a bruise on your forehead from playing statues, which of course I asked, all the while picturing him tipping forward and doing a face-plant while he was trying to keep as still as a cold, marble statue.

My son, being a tad bit dramatic, proceeded to recount the whole thing for me. How his friend had picked him up so they could run together, then their leader shouted “freeze” and they froze only to find that my son was completely unbalanced in the arms of his friend. So, he slipped forward out of his friends hold and trying to maintain a statue pose with his arms frozen right in front of his chest, he fell straight down hitting his forehead on the thin carpet of the youth house.

After he finished, I just stared at him because the drama  of it all was really quite amazing. I could feel the corners of my mouth start to twitch into a smile as he nodded his head after he finished speaking, his big brown eyes sparkling with the excitement of it all.

Then he topped it off with, “But I didn’t get out.”

He didn’t get out, even after all that, he was still in the game, a contender to make it to the finish line, bruise and all.

The story is really quite amazing even without all the drama of the retelling. It really shows what living and breathing in the Lord is all about. The reality of being in the middle of doing what we know we’re supposed to do, running in the right direction and even when things go wrong ( and make no mistake, they will), making sure we maintain our pose, our stance in Him if you will, so that no matter what we are still in the game.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrew 12:1-2

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photo by Timothy Lunsford

 

Anyone who’s done a lot of long drives will tell you there’s that point where you’re so far out that you don’t know how you’ll get to your destination, but you’re too close to stop for the night.

I had just this experience recently when I was driving through Texas. I had misjudged the reality of the distance between where I was and where I was going. After way too much driving through two time zones, I realized I was too close to my destination to stop, but so far away I didn’t think I could make it.

To get where I needed to go, I started counting down the time in increments. First in 60-minute allotments, then as I drove and drove on the straight Interstate that was only broken up by the undulating hills and occasional curves, I lowered the increments to 30-minutes, then 15-minutes, and finally as I came closer to my destination I was counting them down in 10-minute increments, until finally I arrived.

I was numb when I finally got to my destination, but was never so happy to pull into a driveway in my life. Even I, who thinks nothing of driving 10 to 12 hour days, had gone way past what I thought I could do. And honestly, I went way past what I could comfortably do, but when you’re in that in between spot, too far away for comfort but too close to stop, what else can you do but keep going?

As I moved to put my truck, otherwise known as the blue beast, into park and set the brake, I realized that my hands were sore and stiff from gripping the steering wheel for so long. I had noticed as I was driving that I was holding the steering wheel more and more tightly as I drove, but I didn’t realize that I was actually clinging to it to the point that my hands were affected until I uncurled them from the wheel.

As I flexed them trying to get the blood flow back into the very tips of my fingers, I couldn’t help but think of the Apostle Paul and what he said so many times in his letters about finishing the race set before us as believers.

Whenever we set out to do anything, typically it’s not the very beginning of a thing that is so gut wrenchingly difficult for us. Fearful? Maybe. Challenging? Maybe. When we’re in the throes of starting something new, the definition of difficult usually means challenging to get off the ground, but we are so committed to it that there’s an excitement in working that hard to pull it off.

It’s when we are near the end of that thing that we have the hardest time pulling it together because by that time we’re physically and emotionally, not only exhausted, but spent. We have nothing left to give or put into it, but we still haven’t reached the end, and we know that we cannot quit, because if we do, everything has been for nothing. We’re at that point when we’ve gone so far we feel like we can’t make it, but we’re too close to stop.

There are many times in our lives as believers that we get to that point where we realize we can’t do it anymore but we still have to get to our destination. At that point we really only have two choices, either bail out and lose everything, or cling to God in a way we have never gripped onto Him before.

The funny thing is that it’s only in those white knuckled moments that seem to stretch on forever that we really comprehend, physically, emotionally and spiritually, that He’s the only One who can get us to the finish line. He’s the only one who can get us safely home.

“But you are to cling to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day.”

Joshua 23:8

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