Have you ever had a moment when God put into place so many signs indicating His direction for you that you would have to be ultra-dense to miss them all?
That happened to me this past weekend. Months ago, I felt strongly drawn to attend the Teach Them Diligently conference in Nashville and registered early. There was a glitch in my registration which resulted in me being charged substantially less than I was expecting. I called to straighten it out and the gentleman I spoke with was able to see the problem, but he had no idea how it occurred nor how to fix it. He told me, “Well, consider this a gift from the Lord and I guess you are supposed to attend this year!”
That event slipped into obscurity as the mundane home school days ground on. A few bouts of sickness, winter weather, and unexpected life events introduced kinks into our routine. As March commenced with a parting shot from ol’ Jack Frost, I found myself pretty much sick of home schooling. And if I was feeling depleted concerning my home school, I was utterly devoid of any creativity or energy for writing. I was seriously eyeballing a complete change of career (read: getting a career) and began to look toward the upcoming conference with a sense of hopelessness.
We missed the first day. A series of what I can only call “Murphy Events” made my oldest child wonder aloud if we were even supposed to go to the conference. The memory of my conversation upon registration came to mind, and I replied that I was certain we were.
Knowing this, I rose at 5:00 the morning of the conference and sat down with my Bible, asking God to prepare my heart for what He wanted me to hear. As I read, I conferred with Him and He began to bring passage after passage of Scripture to mind, all in some way or another related to perseverance and steadfastness.
The first seminar we attended was called “Passionate Pursuit of Excellence” by Mark Hamby of Lamplighter. I must say it was basically an extension of my private conversation with my King from that morning, incorporating many of the same Scripture passages and even an illustration using an account from Judges that I had read the day before. In many ways, though several people were listening, it was an intimate chat between me and my God.
A word Mr. Hamby mentioned as he spoke was the Greek word agon, meaning struggle or fight, from which we get words such as “agonize.” Here, God reminded me that agonizing effort will often be required of me both in writing and home schooling. In both I must be prepared not only to give my all, but to sacrifice many desires. Indeed, I will need to heed the words of this blog’s key verse and “run with endurance the race that is set before” me.
While I received many other admonitions from God during the conference, there is one other speaker I would like to mention in part because her topic was so close to my heart. Stacy Farrell of Homeschool Adventure Co. spoke on the dire need to prepare our children for the absolute inundation of lies they will face every single day in this world. Of the many wonderful points she made, one in particular hearkened back to my discussion with the Lord: She encouraged us all to be stubborn in our callings and to expect our enemy to try to dissuade us.
I had grown weary and had allowed discouragement to creep in. In these and so many other ways — far too many to recount here — God used people at the Teach Them Diligently conference to remind me of what He had been telling me all along.
Through many of the speakers, God dealt me a much-needed slap in the face and many reminders that I am not in this race alone; that I cannot quit just because the course is long and I am at the point of exhaustion. That I can trust Him to be strong in my weakness.
God emphasized to me that now is not the time to give up, but as Jacob did on that riverbank so many years ago, now is the time to cling to the Him with all the strength I can muster, refusing to let Him go. After all, I cannot be said to have endured if I drop out in the third leg of the race, but only if I run over hill and rocky ground, through blood and pain and tears, laboring diligently, walking when I can no longer run, clawing my way when I can no longer stand, continuing all the way to the end.
Now, at this moment, when the contest seems grueling and interminable, now is the time not only to endure. Now is the time to rejoice.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.