Today I sat in on a high school assembly. This may be an obvious point, but can we take a moment to thank God we're not in high school any more? Unless, of course, you are in high school. Then, hey--don't worry, it'll be over soon. But this is not my point. Tomorrow evening is the homecoming football game and this was part of the week-long festivities. A thousand awkward teenagers (with a dozen or so freakishly attractive adolescents mixed in just to make everyone else feel the weight of their inferiority) were jammed onto the gym bleachers. There was a drum line, perky cheerleaders, a balloon arch and the necessary grunting football players standing off to the side. They would have their time, but event began with the speeches from the homecoming king and queen candidates.
Which is why I was sitting in this hormone laboratory in the first place. Our son, Cade, is one of these candidates. Yep. I'm a proud mom. This kid, who moved from Arizona in the middle of his freshman year has done the difficult work of acclimating to a new culture while remaining true to who he is through arguably, some of the most confusing years of life. This is no small feat and I'm taking this moment to soak in the reality that as his childhood and adolescence winds down, he's entering adulthood having already weathered some character building seasons.
I remember my counselor telling me how hard it is to develop faith in our kids because it requires that we allow them to be in situations that build faith. It's much easier to rescue and protect our kids than to entrust them to God or allow them to fall and fail. I'm not talking about negligence or laziness (although I probably over-spiritualized my refusal to assist on science fair projects). I mean the disciplined, soul-wrenching work of learning when to intervene and when to let them fall. And then trusting something good can come out of your mistakes.
That's what I saw today. A man who is growing in character and faith. A man who is learning to be gracious in adversity and affirmation. The young man (and I use that term loosely) who gave his speech before Cade apparently mistook the assignment as a roast of all the other candidates and, I have to admit, my mama feathers were riled when he took a verbal jab at my son. When I asked Cade about it after school he just laughed. He hadn't been offended at all. Which is the problem with kids growing up--sometimes they're better at being adults than we are.
This afternoon, the votes are being counted and tomorrow night the announcement will be made and the 2014 Homecoming King and Queen will be crowned. Cade may or may not win, but both of us will be fine no matter the outcome. I have so much respect for him and I couldn't be prouder. Of course, I have an advantage over him. I know that in the scheme of life, homecoming court successes fade quickly. But Cade is teaching me that perseverance in the ups and downs of the daily grind will always be rewarded. Maybe not in being king for a day, but in the kind of life that matters.
Season of Delight
I love to run. Well, at least, I used to love to run. It was the kind of activity I truly delighted in. From my running app's verbal signal "Beginning run," to my post-run stretching routine, I loved it all. In my adult life I only participated in a single organized race. Nine months after my first open heart surgery I ran the Phoenix Rock 'n Roll half marathon as a celebration of my renewed energy and life. Other than that, I hated to spoil the pure joy of running with the duty of a training regimen.
Season of Discipline
But now it's different. The shiny new heart valve from seven years ago is wearing out. It's tired and getting less and less elastic; hardening itself against the constant blood flow through my heart and narrowing the passageway that supplies oxygenated blood to the rest of my body.
I'm still running--my cardiologist insists upon it--but now its strictly out of duty. I'm tired and I'm sensitive to every tiny irregularity in my body or my process. As my pace continues to slow and my breath gets shorter, I worry. Should I stop? Am I pushing it too hard?
Regular exercise is the most accurate indicator of my heart's condition and a daily run is now "doctors orders." What a drag. And a gift.
Desire: Discipline: Delight: Repeat
In retreats I lead, I walk people through the cycle of connecting with their desires, then creating disciplined action that helps them lean into those desires, which, if followed, ultimately lead to a season of delight. In our 'instant' culture, we often believe we can move straight from desiring something to possessing it. That works for goods and services, but not for relationships or movement toward God or, really, anything of lasting significance.
For change to occur in these 'things that matter', we must usually spend time intentionally engaging in new patterns of behavior and thought that slowly, often imperceptibly, create space for God to do his transforming work in us. The good news is that, in time, these new patterns become established and we are able to enjoy the fruit of God's spirit-- increased capacity for love, joy, peace, patience, etc.
But in this season of my life I'm being reminded of some truths I've forgotten. Mainly, that sometimes, even after a long season of delight, I might be required to move back into a season of discipline.
Over ten years ago I began a journey that has led to the most dramatic internal transformation in my life. Against all odds, I have become more loving, more compassionate, more joyful and quite comfortable in the disciplines that have created space for the Holy Spirit to work.
And then, I started grad school. I naively (or, pridefully) assumed I would simply be able to continue my current spiritual experience of delight. But Jesus invited me to step out of the boat in the middle of the lake. What I found was I hadn't quite mastered it all and there is a renewed focus on spiritual disciplines in my life. Like my new running regimen, it requires more work to engage in, but I know it may save my life. As I read this week from Eugene Peterson, "...ours is a pedestrian way, literally pedestrian: we put one foot in front of the other as we follow Jesus." And that is what I am doing. It's not pretty or fast, but I'm putting one foot in front of the other.
I love how God is weaving together my spiritual and physical health. He knows I need practical pictures of his movement in my life and he is faithful to provide. When it is time for my physical open heart surgery, I'll praise God again for the new life he gives me physically--which everyone can witness--while also enjoying the continued new life he provides in my spiritual heart.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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