Friday, February 21, 2014

Because the Second Half is Exhausting

I love figure skating. It’s one of my favorite parts of the Winter Olympics, right up there with curling, because let’s face it, curling is cool.

Figure skating has seen its share of drama, some of which led to a complete overhaul of the scoring system a few years ago.

Now, the skater sits in the “kiss and cry” section and waits with their coaches for the score. A voice comes over the speaker and says, “The score, for fabulous skater from cool country is, 63.7.”

It really lacks the drama from the old days. You remember how it went, don’t you?

5.8 (dramatic pause) 
5.7 (dramatic pause) 
6.0 (wild cheers from the crowd) 
5.3 (hissing and boos) 
5.8 (skater bursts into tears of joy or grief)

Yeah, those were good times.

I have to confess that I don’t understand the new scoring system, but it has one feature I find fascinating.

Skaters can earn bonus points.
Each jump is given a certain number of points, and when they land that jump, they get those points. But if they land that same jump after the halfway mark of their program, they get a bonus.

Because it’s a lot harder to land those jumps when you’re tired.

Oh baby, don’t we know it.

We take the ice and we’re skating our hearts out, but somewhere along the way, everything gets harder. Legs tremble. Breaths spasm through our chest. Arms quiver. We try to maintain our form, our speed, because there’s more to come. More twists and spins. More fancy footwork. More jumps.

It’s exhausting.

If this makes perfect sense to us when we think about an ice skating routine, why do we forget it when it comes to this crazy free skate we call life?

We started out great. We opened our hearts to people in need. We sacrificed—our time, our money, our desires—for the sake of the Gospel. We knew He had a great plan even when it didn’t make sense. Then it got harder, and for some reason, this shocks us.

Every. Single. Time.

We’re struggling to get enough oxygen to our brain to think clearly, and we can’t figure out what happened. When all that happened is we got tired. We’ve been at this for a while, and it’s exhausting.

This idea has been spinning in my brain for the past week as I near the end of an unplanned free skate. After weeks of demolition and construction, we are in the final stretch. When the last pile of sawdust is swept away, my home will be more beautiful than it was before.

But it’s been exhausting, and even though I can tell from the music that it’s almost over, I’m faltering. I’m not sure I’ve got another jump in me.

So when a friend shot me a text this morning, reminding me that this is just a slice of time, that this will end, and that it won’t be like this forever, it came as both a gentle reproof and a much needed boost to my morale. 

And it got my mind twisting a little more. Because if you're reading this, I know you're in one of two places. Maybe even in both at the same time.

1. You’re exhausted. You’ve been pursuing the dream, the friendship, the child, the spouse, the number on the scale, or the boss you can’t please, and you’ve got nothing left.

If this is you today, can I remind you that Jesus is the one who said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Your fatigue doesn’t shock Him, and He’s not looking down on you in disgust, wondering how you could be so weak. He likes weak, because when we recognize our weakness, that’s when His strength can pour through us. In His strength, not our own, the jumps we land near the end of the program will be the ones that glorify Him most.

2. You know someone who is exhausted. The friend who gave up her bedroom to care for an aging parent a year ago. The co-worker who’s wondering if the cancer treatment is going to save her life or just kill her faster. The couple who’ve been waiting a decade to announce a new baby. The family who opened their home to foster or adopt. The people next door who don’t know if they’ll be able to pay the power bill. Or maybe it’s closer to home. Maybe it’s the spouse who dreads leaving for work each day, or the child who withdraws more every week as she navigates high school.

They need someone to remind them that it’s okay to be exhausted. It’s okay to be weak. It’s okay to need help.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that since they’ve been “handling” this situation so well for so long, that they don’t need anything. Recognize that they are operating in bonus point territory. If there’s a way to provide tangible assistance, by all means, do it. Take them a meal or take their kids for an afternoon or invite them to a movie. Call them or text them with a little bit of perspective, even if it scares you to do it, because it may be exactly what they need.

No matter what, pray for them. Better? Pray WITH them.

Maybe you could pray this…

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

(Ephesians 3: 14-21 ESV, emphasis mine)