The writing prompt said, Write about three realistic goals you would like to achieve in your lifetime.
My immediate thought was Write. Since I was ten years old, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I am a writer. But, I have learned over the past quarter of a century that I am also a wife and a mother. In the midst of daily life, my writing life has been lived in grasping on to fleeting moments of silence and solitude. Even today, I find myself wrestling with what I thought I wanted for myself and what I truly need to do for my family. Yet, as my writing life and my family life vie for position, I find myself refocused on the Presence that has guided me for as long as I can remember and that I acknowledged at the age of five. I shift my original thought to the three goals highlighted in the followed passage:
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.Philippians 3:12-16 NASB
When I was a teenager running for my high school cross-country and track teams, I loved these verses. I understood the metaphor of a race because I physically felt the four stages of the race: the start, the halfway mark, the wall, and the finish. I’ve written about races before, but there is one stage that requires explanation. When I refer to “the wall,” I am describing the stagnating, physical resistance that occurs three-quarters into a race. I think most people can think of a time when the words “I can’t do this anymore” have come to mind. Maybe it has even been said out loud. When I was in labor with my first son, I know I said it.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I said, looking up at my husband’s face from the hospital bed after the first push.
Bless him, he smiled and tried not to laugh. “You have to,” he said. “You’re already doing it.”
I was. At that third-quarter mark of my first pregnancy as I pushed my son into the world, I experienced my first scars of motherhood. And it wasn’t the drugs they gave me before stitching me up that made me say, “I would do this again.” I embraced motherhood before I held my baby and already anticipated the arrivals of the two babies to come.
In Philippians 3:12, it’s critical to understand that before we ever lay hold of Christ, He has already laid hold of us. That’s why Paul says in verse 13, “I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet.” Our life race is spent following after Christ. We don’t finish until we’re finished. But, there are times when we say, “I can’t do this anymore.” I think those are the times Christ paces Himself with us and says, “You have to. You’re already doing it.”
Here’s what Paul, through God’s Word, reminds us to do:
- Forget what lies behind: Ever tried to run backwards? It feels awkward and unnatural, doesn’t it? That’s because we weren’t designed to run backwards. Mothers may joke about having eyes in the back of their heads, but we don’t. Oh, sure, I remember running backwards during my running days to strengthen the weaker parts of my legs. But, I only did it for a few feet and on a fairly non-rutted surface. It would be foolish to do it for my entire run. I wouldn’t be able to avoid the ruts intended to be in front of me. Sooner or later I would fall. We learn to avoid new ruts because we’ve tripped over old ruts. But, we can’t focus on the old ruts or the new ruts will cause more and maybe worse injury. We may understand this truth from a physical standpoint. But, what about mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? After a few days of being home from the hospital, I turned to my husband with teary-weary eyes and said, “I thought it would be more fun.” Wise man, he smiled and hugged me.
- Reach forward to what lies ahead: Just before I had shared my attitude in the moment, he had said, “I suddenly realized, we’re a family.” As tempting as it was to go back to that hospital bed and rest because I was bone-weary tired after only a few days of caring for an infant, I would have missed out on the milestones to come. My first son is twenty-three now. We had a few run-ins. But, he’s running his own race now. I cherish the times he calls to tell me about his journey. I appreciate the time he takes to listen to mine.
- Press on: When I was being stitched up after my first labor and still managed to say I would do it all over again, I had no idea about the pain and strain ahead. Most, if not all, mothers will say they would rather endure pain themselves than watch their children suffer. There weren’t any stitches for me after the birth of my second son. But, it was excruciating to go home from the hospital without him. He had an infection that kept him in the NICU for a day-and-a-half. Whenever I hear about a mother who has to leave her premature baby for weeks or months, I ache for her. I only had to wait a day-and-a-half to bring my full-term baby home. Whenever I hear about a mother who will never be able to bring her baby home, I wonder how she can go on. But, she does. Though I will have my second son in my home for many more years, I go on, too. I go on for him, for his oldest brother, and for his youngest brother. I go on for my husband who tag-teams with me every day as if we are passing a baton in a relay. I go on because of God adjusts my attitude daily. Sometimes more than once in a day. God lines my trail with His words of encouragement from Proverbs 3:5-6, Jeremiah 29:11, 2 Corinthians 4:6-9, 15-18, John 1:1, John 15, 1 John, Philippians 4:4-13, Psalm 46:10, Joshua 1:9 and many others. When I am weary, I drink in these inspired words and promises.
That’s how I forget the past, reach toward the future, and press on.
It’s that upward call we race toward, and that’s the eternal prize we receive at our finish. On the way, we may experience hills the size of mountains and stones the weight of boulders. We may trip. We’ll be wounded and scarred. But, never as much as the One we follow. We can never bleed as much as He bled for us. While He heals the brokenhearted with His own wounds, we can be assured He has already run and won the race of salvation for us. Out of pure love and joy, He calls us to run toward our eternal home and because He is who He is, He stays with us the entire way.