A few months ago I sat across from a friend telling her I couldn’t run a 5K. I had justifications for why I was incapable. There are physical limitations. I have a genetic disorder that makes it more difficult to circulate oxygen. I also used the standard Christian out; God just hasn’t gifted me in that area. I had tried for months at that point and I had failed. That was my greatest proof. I push my body harder than I should to get it to conform to what I want. I had pushed passed the point of exhaustion but couldn’t make it a full 3.1 miles. Around the 1 and a half mile point I would get lightheaded and frustrated. Several times I faced the very real possibility that if I went any farther, I would pass out. Therefore, my perspective became that I simply couldn’t do it.
I have now run that distance multiple times. I am still the same person with the same disorder. God is unchanging and didn’t suddenly make me more capable. All my attempts didn’t really play a big part either as I was fairly athletic prior to this. Between the proclamation of my inability and execution of this seemingly impossible feat, only one thing really changed – the conditions. The weather cooled down drastically. What I repeatedly failed to do in the 99-degree heat of summer and Texas humidity, I have accomplished repeatedly in cool 60-degree weather. I could expound, at length, regarding why this made a difference, though it is honestly beside the point. The significance is not the why, but rather that when the conditions changed, I was able to do what I was persuaded I would never do.
I am confronted with the fact that the same reasoning I had used regarding my running, I use in other areas. I have decided I can’t do things or reach certain goals because I’ve tried in the past and have failed. My desire to leave behind the emotional baggage and anxiety from my childhood, and abide in Christ is one such example. Healing and growth were sought out to the point of exhaustion and hopelessness. Then I tried to cover my brokenness, and disregard pieces of who I was so I could grab a hold of who I wanted to be. Nothing worked. Arrogantly, I brought God into my justifications. I have thought and even verbalized, that God must have intended my life to have these struggles and pains. I used Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 to justify what I labeled as a holy sentence of suffering in my life. It was just my thorn in the flesh.
There are areas of ingrained mindsets and patterns of behavior that we all face. They are changeable realities that threaten who God has declared us to be. Sneaking in under the guise of self-realization, the temptation is to embrace these areas as part of our identity. They breed lies that place limits on what we can accomplish. While some of these are easier to untangle ourselves from than others, if left unchecked, all create layers of misconceptions that can contort our perspective on everything. Placing boundaries on our love for others, ourselves, and our love of God, the threat these heart matters pose can become significant. As Christians, it can even come with a religious distortion that further indoctrinates us with the belief that we have to accept something less than complete freedom in Christ.
Galatians 5:1 states, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” There is no exclusion to that verse. Bondage to fear, depression, pride, self-hatred, or any other manner of oppression is the antithesis of God’s character. Christ came that we might have an abundant life. He says, “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. (John 10:10-11).” God proclaimed His love and desire for us throughout the scripture and made evident His intentions through the sacrifice of His Son upon the cross. While we get caught up in our own weaknesses, failures, and experiences, it hasn’t phased God in the slightest. He is not moved, and He has not altered the nature of our identity based on those fleeting realities. His truth stands in the midst of all else.
The challenge we are faced with is grabbing hold of that truth and not allowing anything to shake it from our grasp. When facing the thoughts or opinions, whether our own or those of others, 2 Corinthians 10:5 strongly urges us to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” In order to do so, we need to have a clear, unadulterated view of the truth. In and of ourselves it is simply not possible. As in my life, I allowed the truth to be dictated by the limited body of evidence. We all tend to be informed by our own reasoning and that isn’t always good enough. Ephesians 4:11-14 gives us a very precise remedy. We have been given the local church and Body of Christ “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” It is vitally important to have others around us that can help us separate God’s truth from our own perceived truths. Furthermore, we must be willing to search out God’s truth for ourselves. With pliable hearts, we must be willing to humbly abide in Christ rather than walking alongside Him. “Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32)”
“I allowed the truth to be dictated by the limited body of evidence. We all tend to be informed by our own reasoning and that isn’t always good enough.”
These are the right conditions for us to be able to do things we thought we never could- submission to Christ, as well as godly and intentional mentors in the faith. It is our responsibility to create those conditions for success. It isn’t good enough to recognize it, we have to modify our life to include the habits of prayer and Bible reading that will place Christ at the center of our hearts. We have to seek out a healthy Christian community and be willing to vulnerably enter into discipleship. Then we must pursue our ambitions again. When the conditions became ripe for success in my life, I wouldn’t have known it had I not been willing to try again and risk failure. Being willing to fail, and fail more publicly with the eyes of other Christians on you, is a risk. It demands humility and determination. Galatians 6:9 encourages us not to grow weary in this process. For all who press into the process of healing, growth, and maturity, there will be victory and greater freedom in Christ. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” It is my prayer that the Truth resonates in us so deeply that we can face the ebbs and flows of life without shackling ourselves with limitations and false beliefs. Paul says in Philippians 4:12-13, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I pray our egos wouldn’t swell with every victory, or that we become limited by our failure. In becoming dedicated students of the truth, I pray we apply and grow in the knowledge that in Christ we are free, and all things are possible.