2 Years In

2 years ago today 2 little boys arrived at my house.

They’re a mess. They’re a handful. They’re knuckleheads. They’re sweet as can be. They’re monsters. They’re such a joy. They’re amazing little people. They’re invigorating. They’re exhausting. They’re my boys.

I have raised a lot of boys in my life. But… I was a much younger man the last time there were toddlers and preschoolers in my house. I’m feeling every minute of my 51 years plus a decade or two extra.

I was well-trained for the work I’ve been doing for two years with these boys. But it’s so much harder than I could have imagined. I’ve got an incredible support system. But it’s so much lonelier than I would have thought it would be. I have the best partner ever in this full-time job. But some moments I feel like I have to carry the whole thing myself.

I have blown it so many times. But every one of them was an opportunity to teach these boys the most crucial lesson: every man makes mistakes, but a godly man admits it and tries to make it right quickly.

One of these boys has a very hard time when he’s not the first or the best or the most special. If it looks like he’s not going to win, he is very much inclined to quit. I can relate to that. In my own ongoing journey of growing, it’s so easy to give up on a day or a week or a month or a year because I’ve just blown it so badly. It’s hard to re-frame the struggle to simply try to make a better next minute or hour.

But there is so much to be said for simply keeping on.

Even as I see on the horizon my time in this role coming to an end, I’ve made a promise to these boys since the day we met them. “No matter where you go, no matter what you do, I will always love you – no matter what!”

Last weekend we made a pretty special memory. Since the day they came to live with us, the boys have been fascinated with my wife’s display of race medals. She’s completed a number of half marathons and 5k races and a couple of marathon relays and such. (I have a collection too, but it’s not as extensive as hers.) So we signed up (all 4 of us) to participate in the Kids Marathon with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon so that they could win their own medals.

We logged a lot of miles over the last 2 years. The plan for this event was that we log 25 miles independently leading up to the event and then complete the last 1.2 miles on the course.

Saturday morning these boys and I took off running together—not fast, not hard, just running—and ran the whole course, all 1.2 miles of it, without stopping to walk or rest or anything. And we did it together. That’s the deal. That’s what I stepped into 2 years ago. I committed to keep going with them until we cross our finish line.

On Saturday, when we rounded the last turn and saw the finish line about a block away, I said, “There it is, boys! Let’s finish strong! Run hard!” And they took off and left me behind. The little one looked back at me over his shoulder just before reaching the finish line, giant grin on his face, and then turned and blazed on across. The older one was right on his brother’s heels. And I was finishing my race with tears in my eyes with the joy of seeing them run well.

Right now my race is to help them learn to just keep going. Soon another will step in a take up the coaching mantle and I will move to the sidelines as the loudest, proudest, most familiar voice in the great cloud of witnesses cheering for their success.

It doesn’t matter where you start. It matters that you keep going.

One day maybe my little boys will read this and know how incredibly proud their Papi is of them. My hope is that they will not be surprised, just reminded.

As we move forward in our transition journey, please pray with me that these boys will only gain momentum in running toward the great plans our Father has for them.

I’m 2 years in… and trying to finish well.

This is Not That Day

I’m not much of a runner, but I did run another half marathon last weekend. It was long and sweaty and all the usual stuff. But we did it.

Around mile 8 or a little after we passed a sign that looked just like this:

yard sign

I teared up.

I know, I know, there’s nothing particular special about me having tears in my eyes. But this was a powerful message of encouragement to me in that moment. I know that I won’t always be able to do such a thing. But that day I was fully capable.

As I’ve reflected on that sign and the powerful reminder therein, I was reminded of the very common theological sentiment that God will never give you anything you cannot handle. That’s a very comforting thought, perhaps, but there is one small detail about it that bothers me: it’s absolutely untrue.

Hear me out.

Everything about our human condition is utterly beyond our own ability to overcome. We are all born broken and full of selfishness (which God calls sin). We cannot overcome that.

But there is a much more accurate and much more important truth: what God requires, God provides.

Did you catch that?

What God requires, God provides.

It’s like that great hymn said it, “All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided – great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”

That means that, whatever challenge or issue is in our path today, God has provided what we need to endure and even grow through it.

So let me take this sign in a different context. The day that I cannot run the race set before me will never come simply because God will faithfully provide what each day requires when it is needed… but seldom before.

What difference does it make?

Well… it changes how I see the race. It changes how I see that monstrous hill rising in front of me or the rocky path ahead. It doesn’t make the bumps go away or even really take away the sting of weary muscles, but it does give me a comforting assurance that the struggle and the difficulty is temporary.

But there is something deeper, more powerful that I see. It means that the pain of the struggle—and there is always pain in the struggle—will not be wasted.

One of the most misunderstood assurances in the Bible is found in Romans 8 where we read this important truth:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Rom 8.28)

Paul goes on to explain that God’s purpose for all those who believe is to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus. I think what he is getting at is that God is using all of the hardness of this life to accomplish His transforming work.

I want to encourage you today by simply reminding you that, no matter what this day requires, God will provide it. In fact, He most like already has done so.

Run your race. You can do it.

You can do it because you can trust Him to give you every ounce of strength required.

You can do it because He is faithful.

You can do it because He promised.

And His promises are true.

Through Thorns and Waves

The painful sting of thorns is a part of this existence—even when working with the stunning beauty of roses. There is no way around it.

The heaving and crashing of waves affect the most sure of sea-going vessels and there’s not a technique for dismissing them. You can’t experience the wonder of the open ocean without being affected by them.

IMG_4790

I have found myself captivated with the haunting simplicity of a particular hymn. The melody was crafted by Jean Sibelius in his tribute to his homeland in a piece so appropriately identified as a tone poem called Finlandia.

The lyrics predate the music and were translated from German (written 1752) into English by Jane Borthwick in 1855.

This hymn is a discipline of self-talk. It is the urging of the mind to return to the soul-deep truth from which life so easily distracts.

I have been particularly enamored with Jadon Lavik’s reverent and hope-dripping rendition that I encourage you to pause and listen and meditate upon here:

Jadon Lavik, “Be Still, My Soul”

Did you see those powerful words?

Be still, my soul, the Lord is on your side

Bear patiently the cross of guilt and pain

Leave to your God to order and provide

In every change God faithful will remain

Be still, my soul, your best, your heavenly friend

Through thorns and waves leads to a joyful end

Be still my soul

It’s so rich—like cheesecake that demands you slow down and take small bites. The author reminds herself that God is on her side, that guilt and pain are a part of life in a broken world through which we must simply endure.

The urging to leave to God the burden of directing and providing because we know that what God requires God always provides. Because we know this, we can trust His faithfulness no matter what changes roll through our lives.

The assertion that God is, indeed, my best and heavenly friend is a realization to which many believers never acquiesce. But the testimony of Scripture bears out the assurance that, through the thorns of a fallen world and the waves of a sin-cursed journey, He will surely lead to the joyful end that He has promised.

It doesn’t make it not hurt. It doesn’t mean the journey will be smooth and easy and care-free.

It does mean that the destination is sure.

And in that we find rest. In that we can stop and just be still.

Be still, my soul.