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Called to Perseverance

Called to Perseverance

For nearly ten years after my stroke, I got around being pushed in a cheap, manual wheelchair. I’ve got nothing against those. I thought it was great! The airlines treated it like the discus in a discus throw, but no matter. It did the trick. There was, however, one slight issue. The wheels didn’t exactly turn on a dime. They were more like a grocery cart than a finely tuned machine. And if I were left to my own devices, “propelling” myself along with my feet (my right hand doesn’t have fine motor control, so I couldn’t wheel with my hands), I would quickly find that the most effective option was to just stay straight. Trying to turn right or left was clunky and slow.

One day very early on after the stroke, Jay and I were leaving a hotel pool after visiting some friends who were staying there. I even had on a swimsuit, though my feeding tube prevented me from actually getting in the water. We were feeling confident and a little more normal. Our car was parked on the street, and we needed to venture off the sidewalk across some thick grass. To make it a shorter distance for me to walk, Jay pushed the chair onto the grass.

What happened next made a woman dancing next to the hot tub literally drop her bottle of champagne and fall into the bushes with a scream. The wheels of the chair got caught in the grass and immediately stopped moving while my weak little body kept moving forward. It was the first and last time I fell out of the chair with Jay on duty. Naturally, my swimsuit cover got dramatically ripped off, and I rolled like a stuntwoman into some dog poop. It was nothing if not an inappropriate entry to America’s Funniest Home Videos. Jay was mortified, but I was fine.

Perhaps it’s not so different with our callings. There’s a path that may not be easy, but it’s one laid out just for us.

The author of Hebrews charges us to run our race with perseverance (Hebrews 12:1-2). Fortunately, God is not asking us to blaze our own trail. He’s inviting us to stay on the path and get into the groove of what He’s already doing. This call to perseverance means the race will be longer than we think. It means the race will be so hard at times that we may be tempted to quit or change course.

Yet this call to perseverance also means there’s an end in sight. Fixing our eyes on the finish line, on Jesus, both focuses and motivates us. We don’t have to waste energy calculating who is farther along in the race than us or whose race looks easier or better than ours. We won’t be able to gauge our progress based on others now, but in this kind of race, focusing on the finish is all we need to fuel our perseverance.

If Jesus has called us to it, then He will call us through it.

To mix the metaphor a bit, it’s so easy to wonder why our own grass looks so dead compared to everyone else’s luscious green lawns. Our California front yard spent many seasons looking like a prison yard. This was because the shade of two huge trees blocked all the sunlight, but it also may have had something to do with us forgetting to water our yard. When our kids ran around in the dry summer, it looked like something out of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. In contrast, our neighbor’s yard was bright green and inviting. Their sprinklers gave the fountains of Las Vegas a run for their money. It was glorious. Come to think of it, though, there was also a drought in California, so it was probably illegal, but I guess they were willing to risk it for that carpet of green. I think we had a sprinkler, but it must have broken, and then we must have forgotten to fix it. Maybe we just thought it was automatically watering while we were asleep.

Perhaps we should have spent more time becoming students of our own yard, the space we had been given. Maybe we should have looked more into watering our yard and fixing our sprinklers rather than spending time just wishing our yard was green like someone’s else. Their grass was greener than ours because they were actually watering it.

We each have something unique to offer the world. We are called to spend more time tending what God has given us and less time craning our necks at our neighbors. Paul wrote to the Galatians,

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life. — Galatians 6:4-5 MSG

In our search for calling, the best place to look is right in front of us. As we’ve discussed, limitations don’t have to be losses; they can be the avenues to our flourishing.

This is particularly true if we stay focused and creative within their boundaries, if we care for and cherish what’s inside them. I cry every time I think of this quote Jay wrote at the end of our book Hope Heals: “One day, we will see. One day, the arc of our stories will all make perfect sense. One day, we will trace the lines of our scars and find them to have fallen in the most pleasant of places, to see in them our great inheritance. One day, we won’t need to hope, nor will we need to be healed because we will be face-to-face with the source of both, the source of everything… Jesus.”1 Nothing to add there, right?

I suppose if “building your house on the rock instead of on sand” is a fitting enough metaphor for our wedding and marriage, then lot lines must be a great metaphor for our assignments in life. Numbers 33 introduces this idea with the instruction that when God’s people entered the land they had long awaited, the Promised Land, they were each to be given a lot. Some would be big, and some would be small, and the size would have nothing to do with anything they could control. Yet the lots would be their very own piece of God’s promise for them to live and love and flourish on.

We’ve all been given a lot in life — it’s our assignment. And we’ve all been given a lot in life — it’s our abundance.

In Psalm 16:6, David sings the praise of his personal property survey: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” David is not posting these words next to a picture of an over-the-top mansion with an even more over-the-top car parked in front of it, with an over-the-top diamond-draped supermodel sitting nonchalantly on the hood in an appropriately over-the-top evening gown, with the caption “Today’s office view” and the hashtag #blessed. No, David’s lot was a bit more rustic for sure, but so much more valuable and a whole heck of a lot more #BLESSED.

This psalm likely was written during a time of great trouble for David, as it opens with a straightforward “keep me safe, my God.” David is acknowledging that through his struggles against his enemies and betrayals by his friends, he had been called into a unique lot by God and for God and with God. The same God who had given him victory over Goliath and an anointing as king had also given him this lot, so he could trust that it was good. Yet David’s lot would eventually also include adultery, murder, shame, rebellious children, incestuous children, rape, more murder, conspiracy, and loss. (And I thought a wheelchair and some garden variety dysfunction in my own lot was a bummer!)

Though David probably didn’t see all that coming when he described his lot as a pleasant place, the same word is used later in the psalm to describe the pleasures found only in close proximity to God (verse 11). I can only imagine that when this deeply flawed man after God’s own heart found his lot filled with such great pain, he also found it filled with a deeper experience of those pleasures in God. Embracing the lot we’ve been given is about embracing the God who gives it. So no matter what it’s filled with, we’re already filled by Him. Our experience of purpose in life is not based on the size of the gift but on the size of the Giver.

A decade ago, I wrestled with the deepest despair of my life, wondering why God would have left me on this earth after my stroke. I was broken in body, brain, and spirit, unable to do any- thing or be anything other than a source of pain for everyone I loved. It seemed that everyone would eventually stop being so sad if I weren’t here anymore. God had obviously made a mistake. But over time, I was able to hear God’s words in my heart: “You are not a mistake because I don’t make mistakes. There is purpose — just wait, you’ll see.”

If we have a pulse, we have a purpose. We are not still on earth by accident. We are here today because we’ve been called by God to this unique place and circumstance, to this moment in time and history. We’re here because there’s more life for us to experience and more work for us to do and more love for us to give. If we can’t fathom why or figure out how, it doesn’t matter; we don’t have to know all those answers before we start living. In fact, those questions can’t begin to be answered until we step into this new normal life first. We are all living out some version of a second chance; some of us are just more aware of it than others. Our second-chance life is not the one just out of reach; it’s the one right in front of us. It’s the one God has been calling us to all along.

  1. Katherine and Jay Wolf, Hope Heals: A True Story of Overwhelming Loss and an Overcoming Love (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 236.

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Your Turn

“There’s a path that may not be easy, but it’s one laid out just for us.” How are you doing? Do you know that you have a purpose? Are you persevering in it? You’re not a mistake. What’s going on right now in your life is not a mistake. There’s a purpose for you and God has a good plan! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We want to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily