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.

Adobe or Stucco

If you asked for terms to describe me, it’s a long-shot to come across the word “builder.” It’s not who I am (at least not in the most literal sense). I’m not especially knowledgeable in such things.

I was recently out in Arizona at a beautiful spot (on the way to the Grand Canyon) where I thought I was taking pictures of this elegant adobe building.

Again, I’m no expert. I just assumed when I saw something like this that I was looking at a solid example of a classic adobe construction. It is a cool building. We weren’t able to go inside, but it looked cool.

It has all of the outward appearance of a traditional adobe building. It’s a time-honored tradition that is a painstaking and deliberate process with very few real shortcuts (as I understand it). It’s something that one might expect to see in a desert.

However… as we were walking around the place we noticed a small hole in one of the walls. Through this small hole we could see the wire mesh that is necessary to coat a building with stucco. Stucco is a different thing entirely. It’s a coating that is often applied in order to provide a relatively durable and unique texture to a building. It’s also pretty common, in these days of convenience, to build structures that look an awful lot like adobe but are much more simply and easily constructed.

That’s fine. But it’s not adobe.

Now, to be clear, there were no signs that indicated to us that this structure was a genuine adobe building. There was no representation of anything different than what we observed. It’s just not what I expected.

As I walked away from this (still very cool-looking) building, it dawned on me that I’ve observed a great number of folks over the years that claimed to be followers of Jesus, but when they began to be cracked by the circumstances of life, the shallow stucco-like veneer of their faith seemed to crumble and fall away. The emptiness underneath seemed to betray the substance of their profession.

I’ve learned a little more since then about the traditional adobe building practices. The sun-baked bricks do, over time, begin to break down and have to be maintained and eventually replaced just as our faith is intended to grow and renew and transform along our journey. But, even when the coating begins to crack and crumble, the solid substance beneath is real.

I wonder what people see of our faith when the inevitable bumps and cracks of life come along. Do they see a veneer that crumbles away or a solid though vulnerable substance beneath?

The apostle Peter wrote of his hope that the believers he was addressing would even rejoice in those cracking and crumbling blows of life “so that the tested genuineness of your faith” would give praise and glory to God on that day when Christ is fully revealed. He said that this genuine faith was “more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire.” (1 Peter 1.6-7)

So… the question is this: is your Christianity a stucco veneer or an enduring adobe work in progress?

If you’d like to talk about how to know the difference, send me an email (mike@calvaryduncan.com) and let’s talk.

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.