My legs feel all bendy like Twizzlers, like I am not in control of the flappy motions they make as I attempt to move upwards, like I’ll never make it to the top unless I get a different pair of legs, a pair that’s made of flesh and bones, and hopefully muscles, really strong muscles.
And yet, somehow, I lift each leg, one more time, up and over, and over again. I keep my eyes focused forward. I inhale through my nostrils, exhale through my mouth, try to control the breaths, so they’re long and even, not short and gaspy, even though I feel like someone poked a hole in my oxygen tank.
Are you running uphill today?
Trying to get somewhere out of reach? Striving to achieve an incredibly high goal? Stretching to reach the stars?
It’s not easy work, is it?
No one said it would be.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was turned down so many times by publishers, she decided to self-publish 250 copies.
As a tenth grader, Michael Jordan was cut from his varsity basketball team.
U2 was rejected by RSO records.
Andy Warhol was not accepted by the Museum of Modern Art
The New Yorker passed on Sylvia Plath’s poetry.
You know what all of these famous, talented people all have in common? They kept running. Up. That. Mountain.
And we know how their stories turned out. How about your story? How will it turn out? Will you keep running?
“Not much further. We’re almost there. As soon as we get to the light, things level out. It will be easier going,” my daughter, a varsity athlete, encourages me.
I want to shout, “Easy for you to say.”
But no words are easy for me to say right now, they use too much of my air, too much of my effort. Instead, I inhale her words, letting them play on repeat in my brain, “almost here, get to the light, easier going.”
Are you out of breath? Not sure how you’re going to keep running when the incline is so steep?
Listen to my wise sixteen-year old. She’s right. Literally and figuratively.
The road flattens out as soon as I get to that lamppost. Just when I think I might crumble, I find my pace again. My legs find their rhythm and so does my breathing. Our run isn’t over. We still have another steep stint up the mountain to go, but there is triumph in this step, in this accomplishment along the journey. I can’t help but think of the strongest light in my life, Jesus. How on my roughest days, my toughest emotional mountains, He’s always waiting for me, guiding me, casting a warm glow to lead me up out of the places I’m stuck, where I feel like I’ll collapse.
He’s there for you too.
He doesn’t promise that when we hang out with Him it will be all downhill from there, in fact there will always be more hills to climb, more mountains to conquer, but Jesus does promise, that when we run towards Him, things will level out. We will be able to catch our breaths, handle our journeys ahead, because He is with us.
Just as I’m able to catch my breath and enjoy the plateau, the last hill looms ahead, and I know I must climb it.
“Finish strong!” Maddie urges.
Define strong. I’m just focusing on finishing.
But that’s God’s call to us too. Finish strong. Don’t give up. Keep on running the good race. Why? Because it’s worth it. Because we’re called to. Why? Because it’s kingdom work. And although it is work, it is glorious work.
You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got.
1 Corinthians 9:24-26 MSG
A short downhill stint signals we’re almost to the end of our run. My legs propel themselves without any effort or urging from me.
“That’s right. Use the momentum to get up the driveway,” my daughter cheers.
And the force that’s pushing me forward does propel me the first few steps up the slanted driveway, but then the momentum is gone, spent. And so am I. But I keep running the last few yards, up and up and up, until I reach the top where my daughter gives me a high five. I am euphoric. I made it. I am depleted in all of the best ways. I didn’t quit. I didn’t skimp on any of my strength or energy, but used it all to challenge my muscles and bond with my daughter and get to the top.
"When I stand before God at the end of my life I would hope that I would have not a single bit of talent left and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” Erma Bombeck
For today, I had made it. I did it.
And tomorrow the mountain will be waiting for me, and I will run it again.
What’s your mountain today? Are you willing to run to the top?
“Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” Dr. Seuss
Laura L. Smith