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Monday, August 8, 2011

Giving up too soon makes you look crazy

The second leg of the journey always seems to be the hardest.

Before you begin any journey, there is always a sense of excitement of what is to come. Patience always seems to run thin as you want to hurry up and get out the door as quickly as possible. After all, every great journey begins with a single step and the longer you wait to get out the door, the longer it will take to get to the destination. If the journey ahead has much uncertainty, then there is certainly a level of fear and anxiety, but if you at least know where you are headed and what you might encounter along the road and at the end of it, the excitement usually surpasses any sense of fear of anxiety. I am on my second leg.

It's day 25 of my journey. Everyday, I find that my prayer life is growing stronger and my enjoyment of prayer is getting greater. But this was not always the case. My prayer life, as my friend Michelle likes to describe it, was "dry". Turning to God was a pain in the butt. I didn't feel like I was getting anything out of it, nor did I feel like I had much to say. But then, something changed.

When I was young, I hated going with my parents to visit my relatives in random parts of Chicago. It usually meant that we would usually spend an hour or two (because everywhere in Chicagoland seems so far) to get to a place, then spend the same amount of time to get back. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, we would drive to Michigan City, Indiana to go spend time with my family at my aunty and uncle's house. The drive there was brutal and through what looks like a series of ghost towns. I easily got carsick so that didn't make it any better and I always got into some sort of argument with my little sister that inevitably left us raising our arms until they got sore as punishment. Nonetheless, my parents told me I had to go so from as far back as I can remember I went.

As I kept going back each year, I learned an interesting lesson. It took me about two or three years to learn this, but I realized that if I just got myself to get in the car, then everything else would be good after that and that I could enjoy the ride there and my time with the family when I got to Indiana. As each year went on, the more I would spend my time in the car remembering certain landmarks and anticipate the day I would have with my family.

Many times, when you start the second leg of the journey, it feels dry because you haven't fully experienced how amazing the rest of the journey will be. A lot of time, the scenery seems a little repetitive and the landscape seems dull, and for miles, it feels like nothing is going to change. You start losing hope because you only remember the pain or nuisance it is to set off. Getting ready becomes boring because you think you know what the day will fully entail. You don't expect to get surprised, nor do you think you will enjoy yourself.

The reality is, the spiritual disciplines of prayer, worship, reading the Bible, solitude, and fasting are like this. There is a middle ground where the excitement of opening up the Bible for the first time or praying for the first time is no longer there. The expectation that God is going to do amazing thing through your time with Him starts dwindling because you thought that God would speak through thunder and lightning instead of a subtle peace and a sense of joy of knowing Him. The feelings start to confuse you and what you built up in your mind seems like a let down for the most part. However, the reality is, that as the beginning of a journey (our immaturity in faith) provides excitement and expectation, the middle ground provides us with discipline and consistency. It allows us to see that God is faithful and what He is after isn't fireworks or for us to walk around in burlap potato sacks and live without electricity or running water. What God wants from us is for us to experience Him. He wants for us to experience His goodness, kindness, provision, mercy, love, joy, and abundance. He wants for us to experience His protection, holiness, comfort, and freedom. He wants for us to know Him.

The problem with the middle ground is that most people quit. They get disappointed because of the lack of bells and whistles and immediately discredit God and their own faith in God and say that its not worth it. The sad part of it is that the last leg is immediately around the corner. The third leg forward of faith gives us the confidence we lost because of our own false expectations from God. As we expected God to act and behave in a certain way and found ourselves disappointed, the third, fourth, and fifth legs show us that God does speak and that He does provide more than we could ever imagine, but He does so in different ways. In essence, we push through the middle leg to learn about how He speaks and how He interacts with us so that in our last legs, we can simply walk with Him. Dryness disappears and everything seems rich. Faith is fun and nothing else really seems to matter except for God and people. Prayer is great because you pray in a way that allows God to speak and through listening, you hear God personally in your life.

I feel like for most of my life, I've quit when I hit the second leg. I was always on the brink of experiencing God in an incredible way and then I quit because He doesn't move fast enough for me. My own expectations of how God should be got in the way of allowing me to see how God really was.

As I feel like I'm at the end of the second leg, I find life to be much more meaningful and colorful. My time with God is always fruitful and I enjoy spending hours on end with God on a daily basis. But most surprisingly, I find that my interactions with people are much more fruitful. God seems to be searching through the lands for people who will respond to His call. Will you?

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