Before I finished uttering the words out loud in the car, I caught my breath with the realization of what I’d done. “Lord, today please grow our kids in the depth of their character and in their understanding of You.” Yesterday I invited God to bring in the instructor of Hardship in the lives of our children, and before the day was over, He answered.
The door didn’t open with its usual after practice adrenalin, so much so that I turned in curiosity. My “hi Honey” was met with a single word of inquiry, “Mom?” And then the tears began as she slumped onto the stool at the counter. 36 hours away from the Regional Cross Country meet and less than 2 weeks away from the State Competition, she turned her ankle at practice, the same one she injured last November. A year of early mornings, miles, sprints, water bottles and progress flashed before her eyes. Her scholarship hopes called out from the back of our thoughts. So much work to make the top 7 to run at State, and in a single mis-step she moved from “exhilarated” to “hopeful.” I remembered my prayer and knew God had moved. I held my disappointed 17-year old and wrestled inside with what I had asked of the God of our steps. I closed my eyes because I didn’t see any courage.
We elevated. We iced. We rested. And when it was time to put our 17-year old with the ace bandage on her ankle to bed, we sat and talked and her courage came out. She finished the inquiry started hours ago at the door. “Mom, what if God allowed this in my life because I’ve let running become too important, to take the place of Him?”
It takes courage to ask the hardest questions, questions that might change our plans and dampen our hopes. It takes courage to see that God might open the door to the taskmaster of pain so we deepen our character and know Him more. It takes courage to know God cares more for our holiness than our happiness.
I was 17 once, and I had the courage to ask those questions immediately, too. But something about adulthood teaches us to be reluctant, to be careful, to be strategic, and to be private … even with God. We learn to catch our breath with the realization that God might use hard things in our lives. It takes courage to really follow after God. A young man once wrote a courageous invitation to God asking, “Search me, O God, and know my heart try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24) David had the courage to ask God to show him if ________ had the place in his heart that only God should have.
There’s probably more than one way God will use this twisted ankle, if only to re-stir our courage to ask the hard things of Him and mean it. Would we have had the audacity to say college was made possible by her running? Would we have said it’s okay to leave out time with the Lord so that you can train for State? Would we have had the courage to ask the real questions?
The coach will have to examine the ankle today and make a decision about tomorrow and about next week, a decision that could have wide ripples. It will impact the team of 7 Varsity girls. It could impact runner #8. It may impact college plans. My prayer is being answered, and God will give courage of character to my 17 year old and to her mom, too.
How is God working in your life right now? Let’s face character building challenges with 17-year old courage!
Lord, give me fresh courage like a young shepherd or like a young runner. I really do desire stronger character for each of my children, for my husband, and for myself, but I will need your courage to walk in the way everlasting.