I am the 200 meter hurdler in a regional meet. I have good shoes on my feet, a uniform that fits, and the energy to keep my heart pumping and muscles contracting at lightning speed. I know this stretch of man-made track; I know the slight waist high barriers that block my path; I know my body. This is a race I can win.
And yet with each step forward and each hurdle crossed I feel no farther along in the race then moments before. In fact, I’m sure more hurdles have suddenly appeared in my lane, doubling, tripling. I find myself scrapping the tops of my knees on the hurdles as I cross them. I am losing momentum. The track itself expands to a length I cannot guess at, the finish line too far off in the distance to even glimpse.
Simply put, I feel trapped in a race I cannot see an end to.
This mental picture describes me so well right now and I want to explain why. The end of last year was a whirlwind event: completing my first semester with the Dordt students, saying goodbyes, finishing tasks, planning ahead. Amidst this flurry of activity I had the opportunity to fly home to spend the holidays with my family and friends. It was truly a wonderful time and the best Christmas gift I could have asked for. But it too was a whirlwind event with activities packed into the few short weeks leaving me little time to pause and take a deep breath. Saturday I returned to Nicaragua, sad to leave Michigan and yet happy to be once again in my Central American home. More chaos greeted me the second I debarked the plane. Taken separately, each task before me is one I can easily hurdle.
If I zoom out, however, and take in the panorama I start to feel quite burdened by all of not only the work but also the energy required to do it and the emotions that will be tied to it. It is a race I fear I cannot finish.
But then, God comes and knocks on my virtual front door and puts a little treat in my inbox: two Bible verses that have somehow escaped my notice and sunk down to the pit of my “to read” emails. In a way as if the prophet was speaking directly to me, Isaiah 41:10 tells me “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand.” The next email shares Isaiah’s voice once again, this time from Isaiah 40:31: “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings of eagles they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Ok, God. I hear you.
YOU are my strength. YOU are the hands that hold me up so I don’t fall down. When my feet falter, when I feel faint, when the sight before me has me groaning and moaning, YOU ARE THERE WITH ME.
Suddenly, this race before me seems to shrink back to its original size and I can sigh in relief.
I will get through this. WE will get through this. By the grace of the God who loves us.