One of my goals for this year is to write publicly every week. Most often that is here, excepting the week I send out the monthly newsletter. I need both the encouragement to write consistently and the discipline of writing longer form pieces. Last week I hadn’t written much, mostly because I was discouraged. I feel discouraged about raising my kids. We’ve been at this for a while and it still feels like we are doing the same work. I feel discouraged about the conversations about women and the church because sometimes it seems like we’re still having the same conversations. I feel discouraged about my own sense of vocation because I can’t see a path forward. I’m still living these same days.
After some thought, I’ve realized that much of this discouragement is because I can’t see an end line. There’s no banner stretched out over the finish that I’m straining toward in any of these areas. The boys will weigh on my heart as long as I’m alive, even after my work of raising them is complete. There will always be those people who are happy to subjugate women and slap the name of Jesus on it. My own path forward may always feel like a mystery. I’m slowly practicing obedience and faithfulness in the everyday and not analyzing other metrics like success or notoriety or feelings.
Last week, I started reading Keep Going by Austin Kleon. In the introduction he says “the question is always the same: How to keep going?” To frame it that way helps me. This is what life is. Life is beautiful and difficult, joyful and terrible, boring and ecstatic. These days can be both excruciating and strengthening. But the call is always onward because I am actually going somewhere, even if it’s not a somewhere I was taught to look for.
Maybe that’s why the writer of Hebrews tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus. Coming off a chapter discussing our ancestors in the faith and the perseverance they exercised, the author writes, “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:2). I have to remember the end. The end is Jesus. My eyes have to be on Jesus, not what is (or is not) being accomplished. Not how hopeless the case seems from here. Not on how many days I’ve woken up in this same place. Eyes on Jesus is the way of endurance. Eyes on the finish line. Maybe there is a banner after all.
I’ve started reading the Old Testament again. As the story of Abraham unfolds, God reveals Himself more and more. He asks more and more of Abraham each time because God wants to partner with humans (even me). He makes these grand promises to Abraham about a nation of children and a land populated with a people and a promised redeemer. And for years, nothing. Not even one child.
God never promised it would be quick. Instead He told Abraham “I will confirm my covenant that is between me and you and your future offspring throughout their generations” (Genesis 17:7). God promised to be faithful; He didn’t promise to be fast. This was a story that would outlast Abraham.
Mine is also a story that will outlast me. God still doesn’t seem to be in the business of being fast. My own story moves at a snail’s pace while I’m contemplating taking up drag racing after driving my boys’ go-kart. I found encouragement reading Eugene Peterson’s biography. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on his story because he’s someone I consider a father in the faith; his writing and life feed my own soul. In A Burning in my Bones, Collier writes, “The imagery spoke to him so deeply because he had been that dog for decades. His life and work had been more like tracing a scent than following a map. Discovery, not direction. In all those fifty-five years, Eugene had never truly mapped his future, never tried to lay some ordered path toward a clear career goal. Intent? Sure. But haphazard too. The whole meandering journey had been a dog sniffing the wind, the next whiff being the only real clue” (p60). Whiff seems like the accurate word.
If you asked me what was next with work, I would shrug my shoulders. I have dreams, sure. I do also feel like something is next, but a whiff is all I have. There is a sharpening of calling, but I can still only see the ground in front of my feet. Fog obscures my vision. I can go no farther. Here I stand. Still.
And so I will stand. Persevering in this moment, repeating the truth being ingrained painfully into my own soul. It is the who-I-am-being-made-into that matters. It is the slow work being forged in my life now where it seems nothing is being accomplished that must happen before I round the corner. I might feel discouraged, even then I will keep my eyes on Jesus. He is faithful, but not fast.