Take A Breath and Press on!
There are moments that cannot be erased from my memory bank. My eyes can’t un-see what I saw, and my muscles can’t forget what I endured.
Stroll with me back to Phy. Ed class in the 1970’s. High school gymnasium.
We wore a one-piece navy-blue gym uniform with elastic around the waist, elastic around the thighs, and snaps up the front. Really? Are you serious? Did the designer have any clue about what your stomach and derriere look like when you wear something like that? Absolutely nothing attractive or flattering about it.
As if that wasn’t humiliating enough, we had to exercise to the music of … the “Chicken Fat” song. It directed us to “give that chicken fat back to the chicken” by moving us through a series of floor exercises. The line that is seared into many of our memories: “Go, you chicken fat, go away! Go, you chicken fat, go!”
Who in the name of all things healthy and fashionable ever thought that was a good idea? Michelin Man-looking uniforms and a chicken fat tune? Good grief.
So, we had the very stylish one-piece elasticized jump suit, and bouncy music to get us motivated. That brings us to … The Presidential Fitness Tests.
Remember them? Every spring we’d have to go through a fitness assessment that included an obstacle course (anyone besides me hate to crawl on your belly with your butt in the air?), a rope climb (we had never, ever climbed a rope), jumping the hurdles (ouch, ouch, ouch), and … running. That was the worst. The running.
In the little town I grew up in, we would run around the bus track behind the school.
I don’t remember how many times we circled that gravel road, but I do remember how painful the whole experience was.
After the first, oh, several hundred feet, my knees and thighs would start to hurt, and I’d get a little winded. The longer I ran, the more my legs hurt. Then my lungs would start to burn. And of course, the more they hurt and burned, the more I focused on the pain. You get this, right? “Oh, my poor knee….I think my lungs are going to explode…this hurts too much…I think my leg is falling off…I wonder if anyone would care if I just laid down on this horrible gravel road and died right here.”
Yes, running was hard work.
But the toughest workout was taking place between my ears. In my mind.
The more I focused on how tired I was, the ache in my knee, and the fire burning in my lungs, the harder the run got. I just wanted to quit.
That describes some moments in my life.
(Ah, yes. Who knew that wearing a navy-blue uniform while listening to the “Chicken Fat” song and then running around a bus track until I thought I was going to die would result in a transformational moment as an adult. But here we are.)
It’s like this.
I’m caught up in a frustration or mini-crisis or a tough situation, and all I can think about is how hard it is. How nothing looks or feels right. My focus is on my exhaustion, frustration, and aches and pains. Nothing exists except the “you’ve got to be kidding me” scenario.
And yet. I know that if I would just pause and stop the negative spiral I’m in, things could look and feel a little better.
It’s so easy to get all tangled up in the messiness, isn’t it?
If I would just stop and catch my breath, I could change my perspective. My brain would be better able to consider new solutions or form a more appropriate response. Life would be easier. And I’d finish the race.
I need to stop and take a breath.
And then start again.
This life you and I are living isn’t intended to be a sprint.
It is a long run that requires water stops. Naps. Recalculating our route when we get off track. Letting go of the things (people, activities, priorities, and commitments) that keep us from being who God has called us to be.
God knows that we need to pause sometimes and take a breath. And He wants us to finish our race—our life—living it fully and joyfully!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”
I love the words used in The Message translation of that same verse:
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.”
Get rid of the stuff that weighs us down.
Stuff like unbelief. Lies masqueraded as truths. Sin that trips us up. Anything that takes our eyes off Jesus. Then take a breath. And start again. Finish the race.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that God understands that we can get sidetracked? I love that He encourages us to persevere and keep going.
And let’s not miss this. Did you notice the bonus message in that verse of encouragement? Did you catch it?
All of heaven is cheering us on!
How cool is that? Every race and every racer needs the excitement that comes from people in the bleachers or standing alongside the road jumping up and down, waving their posters, and screaming from their bellies for those runners brave enough to run around in shorts.
We’ve got our own pep club! I can just see those saints who’ve gone before us, peering through the clouds, leaning over the sunbeams, elbowing each other to get a good view, shouting and encouraging us … “Look at her go! You’ve got this! Keep going! Don’t stop now! You’re doing great!”
Oh, life is good and God is faithful. And the race is ours to finish.
My friend, whether we walk or run … let’s keep going. Let’s not quit.
When our knees and lungs and hearts and souls start to hurt, let’s remember to pause. Take a breath. And then start again.
We can do this!
This is an excerpt from Getting My Ducks in a Row and Other Stories of Faith by Gaye Lindfors. At the heart of Gaye’s messages is the reminder that God is faithful, and He has good things planned for you. Not afraid to poke fun at her own mishaps, she encourages your heart and feeds your soul. Learn more about Gaye and her speaking, writing, and weekly notes of encouragement (because who doesn’t need encouragement, right?) at www.GayeLindfors.com. Facebook @GayeLindforsAuthor; Instagram @GayeLindfors.