I’m tired, boss. –John Coffey from The Green Mile
For me, this past week began with COVID-19 Symptoms, climaxed with an attack on the US Capitol, and ended with me in an ER room being checked out because of COVID-19. It’s been a long week…it’s been a long year.
On Wednesday, when I heard of the events in D.C., I called a friend and we talked about all that was happening. I was frustrated, angry, and in disbelief. (No, I am not happy with the outcome of the November 3 election, but storming the US Capitol is no way to solve anything.) We talked about the Capitol, the GA Senate election, President Trump, President-Elect Biden, ourselves, and more. In our conversation, I finally said that I’m tired; my friend echoed this sentiment. I’m tired of seeing the division and hate. I’m tired of the rhetoric and the ignorance. I’m tired of the worry and pain. I’m tired of…well…that’s just it. I’m tired.
As I have pondered this, I have been reminded that being tired of this world is a good thing. This world and its system is not my home or hope. It is but a stop on the Disciple’s Journey. I am learning to walk by faith, and I am pursuing my goal, which is Jesus Christ (Phil. 3.12-14). This world is going to beat us down and we will feel needy and oppressed. The Psalmist declared as much in Psalm 40.17: I am oppressed and needy. Yet, the Psalmist also wrote, may the Lord think of me. You are my helper and my deliverer; my God, do not delay.
And there, dear friend, is our hope. The God of the universe, who is “very great; clothed with majesty and splendor” (Psalm 105.1). This God is our help and deliverer and he does not delay. He is our hope and he is the one we look to for strength and encouragement and salvation. If we’re tired, we’re in a good place, as we are being reminded of the Kingdom to come. Paul wrote that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us (Romans 8.18). So, take heart. Better days are head. Our Lord is in control and he is at work in this very moment. He moves in mysterious ways, but ways that are only mysterious to us and not to him.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
-“God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper
On the Journey,
I recently watched a video of Mark Lowry recounting his experience of a tornado. It’s well worth the watch and will bring a smile to your face. In the video, he explained that he was living on his houseboat and was awakened one evening after hearing a freight train come down the lake (obviously a tornado). He looked out the window and saw the extensive damage to the neighboring piers. So, he went to his radio and called his neighbors. He asked if they were okay. Their response was “We’re upside down; but we’re okay.”
That has been the story of 2020: We are upside down, but we are okay. We have struggled this year, but we are okay. We are tired, but we are okay. As I have thought about this idea, I think it is important to remember that we are okay not because of anything we can do, but because God has taken care of all things. He is sovereign and this year has allowed us to demonstrate a greater faith in our Lord Jesus.
Yes, being upside down is uncomfortable and stressful; it reveals our weak points. We are reminded of the hard (but honest) truth that we are not done yet. We are not done being molded and shaped into the image of our Lord Jesus, though we are firmly in his hands. Think of Paul’s words to the Philippians: Not that I have already reached the goal or am already perfect, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. (13) Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, (14) I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3.12-14).
Paul’s goal was to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death (11) assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead (Phil. 3.10-11). Paul kept pursing Jesus even after having been saved. He continued to pursue Jesus despite the difficulty he experienced. He kept striving after Jesus because he had been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
Like Paul, we too have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. We are secure, despite our difficulties and uncertainties. I’m not sure about you, but I relate to Mark’s neighbors: “We’re upside down; but we’re okay.” What about you? Are you upside down? Are you feeling the pressure and the heat? If you’re upside down, remember, the game is not over yet. Paul understood that.
We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; (9) we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed (2 Cor. 4.8-9).
Take heart, friend! Keep pressing on. You’re okay.
Here for you,
When I was learning to ride a bicycle, I became well-acquainted with two of the many trees we had in our backyard. I would be pedaling along fine, but on at least two occasions, a tree jumped in front of me. In a moment of panic, I forgot that I could turn away and avoid the tree all together…or better yet, I could use the brakes. On the two occasions that I ran into the trees, my parents told me to get up and try again—even if I thought I was hurt (I did not bleed or break anything). I would get up and get back on the bike. Eventually, I did learn how to ride the bike and I enjoyed it.
As I have thought about this story over the last few days, I have been reminded that failure is okay. Pleasant? No. Okay? Yes. Truth is, failure is a part of life and it requires each person to respond to it. Often you cannot choose to fail (it often just happens), but you can choose how you will respond to failure.
For me, I choose to redefine the win. I ask: What’s the victory in this? Let us use a math test I took in high school (math and science were not my strong suits). In my junior and senior math classes, I had a series of exams and quizzes that were less than favorable. I was ready to give up and just let it be whatever it might have been. However, instead of focusing on the apparent failures, I began to look at the good. I may have only gotten 2 out of 20 right on an exam, but I did not get them all wrong. So I took my victory.
The encouragement was enough to get me through the two years of math (and I somehow passed). Redefining the win is vital. Failure does not mean that the game is over. In fact, the game is only over when you choose to not get back up. Unfortunately, many are told that failure is bad and should be avoided at all costs. But the truth is God works even in the midst of our failures to reveal himself to us, and to prepare us. He also reminds us that he is the God of redemption.
Friend, don’t shy away from the tree (Don’t go looking for the tree either. But when the tree is there, don’t shy away from it). Remember, failure can be a wonderful time of growth. So, get back up. Brush the dirt off. And get back on the bike. You are not done yet. Take the lesson you learned from the failure and press on. Eventually, you’ll get it right.
On the Journey & Rooting For You,
Murdy Creative Co. is encouraging their patrons to participate in Note-vember, a month where you write for the sake writing every day. While I am not going to post every day, I am going to post each week using a different prompt. I do want the posts to be helpful, so I’ve Googled some other prompts for today. But do check out Murdy and their prompts by subscribing to their newsletter.
This week’s prompt: 14 Pieces of Advice to Graduating Seniors & Undergrad Students
I hope that these have been helpful. I’ve learned many of these through the School of Hard knocks, but I’m thankful for the lessons. I’m still trying to figure many things out, and that’s okay because one never has life all figured out. It’s journey, so stay the course and keep on keeping on.
On the journey,
P.S. Murdy Creative Co. did not pay nor ask for the endorsement, and they don’t need to either. Their products are tremendous! I’ve purchased on thing already and plan on purchasing much more.
I have recently taken up one of my favorite pastimes—woodworking. Thus far, I’ve built two desks, a coffee table, and am working on a few other projects. I was first introduced to woodworking in high school by my Ag Teacher; I enjoyed it then and enjoy it now. When I’m done, there is a sense of accomplishment, and the finished project makes the process well worth it.
For one desk, I needed to build X-braces into the frame for a farmhouse look. All was well and good until I realized that I am not that good with angels. I struggled to cut the angels correctly, and when I managed to cut a proper angel, I did not cut the board long enough. Whenever I seemed to make a bit of progress, I would have to back up a few steps because something wasn’t done correctly. (Eventually, I did get it right.)
When I’m building, each piece remains a work in progress until it is completed. Who determines when the piece is completed? Simple. The builder. The piece cannot determine for itself when it is finished. In a similar way, we too are under construction. Paul recognized this and wrote in Philippians 1.6: I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. God is not done shaping us into the image of our Lord Jesus. We all have a long way to go.
Students (and adults) often struggle with remembering that they are not there yet. They struggle to remember that they don’t have it all figured out and that God is still working on them. Many frustrations can be traced back to a failure to remember that God is not yet done with us. When your student fails, spend some time talking to him/her about the truth that God is the God of redemption (Eph. 1.7), who will waste nothing (John 6.12), and will always demonstrate grace (Ps. 103). And, as a parent, remember, God isn’t done with you, either. I pray that God will give you the grace you need to be the parent He has called you to be. May we all continue to allow God to be God as he continues to shape us.
On the journey,