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Skipping Church

Jane and I skipped church on Sunday.

An emergency call came in on Saturday night from our youngest sister Shannon in Charlotte. It went something like this, "If I am gonna get up before the sun and run in this triathlon, the least y'alls lazy selves could do is come make some ruckus and cheer!"

Spoken like a sister. Sunday morning we were in the van on the way to the triathlon.

Jane was chomping on a breakfast biscuit and I was slurping down coffee as we headed off to watch 1700 women be healthy. I guess the irony of that made us a little punchy as I flatly stated, "Shannon might talk me into doing this triathlon with her next year, but you will never get me in one of those unitards. 'Cool' passed me a long way back, and there are just some things the world does not need to see anymore."

At this point we were walking up a hill as toned bikers whooshed past us in those bright multi-colored unitards. "Seriously", Jane said, "you are going to talk smack as you are breathing heavy walking up this little hill?"

Mostly you wait, intermingled with short outbursts of wild cheering. That's how you "watch" a triathlon. Several times we erupted into hoots and hollers, thinking it was Shannon coming in the white t-shirt, only to find when the runner got into our focused range, that we did in fact not know her. She's probably still thinking, "I wonder how I knew those two obnoxious girls that kept cheering for me? Hmmm, can't place it."

After the race, amidst the water cups discarded on the ground and the helium balloons slowly deflating around us, we snapped this picture of me while Shannon gathered her things.

holly-at-triathlon

We emailed it to my husband and brother-in-laws with the caption, "It was tough, but she made it." Within seconds they had emailed back, "Made it to Starbucks.", and "The only thing my wife lifted this morning was a grande mocha."

Ah, the painful truth via cyber space. The truth is, except for the obvious lack of muscle tone, the numbers on my shirt being upside down, and the fact that my sweat was only from the humidity, I was dressed like I had run the race. I looked the part.

That got me thinking. Where am I appearing to "run the race", when in reality I am only "looking the part"? I mean, Bill and I are mid-race. We are in our forties. We have teenagers. We will have been married for twenty years in May.

Here is one expert's description of some runners mid-marathon.

"Your brain starts to feel like it's in a fog. You become confused, your will power drops and you may become very emotional. I have seen grown men crying like a baby in the final miles of a marathon."

Ever have days like that?

Honestly, in my twenties, I would sometimes look around at the lives of friends and acquaintances and think, "They seem to be doing alright, seemingly thriving, without God." But lately, I am noticing that more and more people are dropping out of the race.

Parents that are beat tired, and choosing to "let it roll" instead of fighting to stay connected with their kids.

Marriages that are either broken or going through the motions.

Lots and lots of people asking if their life will have significance.

I didn't need God less twenty years ago, but I could cover up my need more easily. I was more healthy, had more energy and was responsible for fewer people.

I could more easily "appear" to be running the race. So could others.

Truth is, there are people dear to me in my life that I simply cannot love selflessly and patiently without God. And, I really want to love them well.

The Apostle Paul put it this way...

"My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12: 9-10, New Living Translation

Apparently, my getting really clear on my junk, my baggage – where I am weak – is a good thing, as long as I call it what it is before God, and humbly ask Him to pour His strength through me. Because more often than not, I feel out of strength. The less confident I am in my own power, the more His is available to pour through me.

So here is my regular prayer.

Father, I don't want to drop out.

I don't want to appear to run a race, but actually be falling apart.

I don't want to love in an ordinary way.

So, I am going to need you. Please forgive me for the many times that I stubbornly turn to my own strength first. I pray that today your perfect, mighty strength would cover my weaknesses, turning something broken into something beautiful.

Amen.

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