I have learned that it takes around 3 years for a bamboo plant to be fully established once it is planted. It will have long periods in which the plant doesn’t appear to be making any growth progress. It is during this time that growth is occurring underground within the root system. The roots are actively growing and pushing water up to the plant above ground.
Sometimes it feels like life is an uphill climb along a steep, cold mountainside with unforgiving inclines and steep turns. When will life get easier? Just when it looks like a breakthrough is near, another...
After years of slipping into the sedentary lifestyle I decided to start running again. I used to be an athlete able to run fast or far depending on the race. Hurdles and the 200 yard dash were among my races, and I also ran cross country. On the cross country team the coach would load us on a bus and drop us off miles from campus. We had no choice but to run until we got home.
Now, years later, I set out to run again. At first it felt great! I was thrilled to get my stamina back and to push the pace. I felt the thrill of getting back in shape again, that is, until my knees seized up in pain. Pushing the pace was not an option as I stopped on the trail and gave my legs a shake in dismay. I had no choice but to slow my pace considerably, ice my knees and run shorter distances. It was discouraging.
Several weeks later my knees are starting to get stronger. I don’t look at all like the athlete I used to be. I kind of shuffle along monitoring my knees and giving them time to build up muscle again. I never had knee problems before. It used to be my shins but never my knees. I guess after years of a sedentary job, putting off running after two kids and a busy life have caught up with me.
I realize that this applies to many areas of life, physical, spiritual, emotional and mental. I like to tell my clients that
After writing on the F’s of holiday stress (Frenetic Activity, Family Issues, & Finances) I realized I missed the most central F in the positive list I provided; Flexibility, Focus, Fun and now Faith. Faith is what Christmas is. Many of us celebrate Christmas for a wide range of reasons some that have nothing to do with faith. Yet, faith in a God who came down to live amongst us is what Christmas is at it’s core.
Sure Santa seems jolly and generous but he has been known to give out coal if you are bad, or to take you off his list if you haven’t done your chores. He represents conditional love, or love based on how good you are.
Jesus, on the other hand, came to save us all no matter what we have done. If we have stolen, lied, cheated, gossiped or even murdered, his gift of grace is still available to you. Many say, “I have been good enough, certainly his salvation is available to me.” but that statement misses the point by a long shot. The point isn’t being “good enough.” The point is that
Before I experienced burn out 10 years ago, I thought I was super spiritual. I never ever missed church. Even a Chicago blizzard couldn't keep me away from Sunday am church. I arose early to shovel my way out and brave the snow covered streets to get to church on time. Truth was, I loved going to church. I rarely missed my small group bible study and I always kept my commitments. If I said yes to something (and I said yes to most things) I showed up. I showed up even if I had a splitting headache, a stomach ache, or little sleep.
I never said it, but I looked down on people who only showed up to church occasionally thinking they were lazy. I took great pride in my faith and my works oriented approach. Very dutifully I went above and beyond what was expected of me and I thrived on it. Sometimes, I got a rush out of it. Little did I know I was soon headed for a downfall. God was going to allow me to experience severe burnout (see also previous post on Adrenal Fatigue).
After I burned out, I could no longer keep up with my own pace even if I tried. Exhausted and depleted, I was forced to become what I had looked down upon. I was forced to be the person who missed church, who stopped going to bible study, who said no to everyone who asked me to do something. Or worse, just didn't show. The life I had thrived on was gone.
Something important shifted in me and I became a more gracious person toward those I had failed to understand. Pride was replaced with understanding, and arrogance with compassion. Where I had failed to comprehend what kept people out of church I now understood. I became less judgmental toward the occasional church goer...shoot, I became one.
God had taught me an important spiritual lesson that his love and acceptance doesn't come from works. It truly is his free gift. He had allowed me to come to the end of myself to find him there ready to hold my weary body in his loving arms. In his arms, just resting, I found relief and restoration. The biggest surprise was acceptance and love from the one I thought would tell me to get up and do more. I gained a new perspective and learned how to receive God's grace.
Verses for Consideration
Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. Lamentations 3:22
Come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28
Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10a
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:4-9 (from http://www.biblegateway.com)