Have you ever had a true epiphany? That moment when you suddenly realize your understanding of how this life works was wrong and you can never go back to the way things were.
I pray that on this journey of being a Christ follower I am always being taught, molded, refined. I want to fail because it means I have taken the risk of trying to succeed. Yet, even with substantial effort put forth to try and be a forever learner, I had missed it.
It was a wet morning, in a Texas early August, a few years ago. A morning like many other mornings except for a few remarkable details. I was up before dawn, as usual, meeting a friend, as usual. We had this grand idea we would risk succeeding at an Obstacle Course Race. Not just any race, but a half marathon distance, forty obstacle, mud course that was only two months away. The plan was simple: get up, run in the awful heat and humidity for a long time, don’t die! Training in this fashion for these races was something I was familiar with, and this morning in particular I was desperate for normalcy. My band of sweaty jokers had been meeting for years to accomplish the task of hurting ourselves in hopes of better health and fitness. Looking back, it was quite clear that these were the brothers that I spent most of life with. The consistency was taken for granted, but unparalleled by any other activity in my life to that point.
Why was I so desperate for the sound of foot falls on pavement in Brooks running shoes that day? Put simply, a few weeks before that morning, my world broke.
I was at a worship conference when I received a phone call from my wife. I was anxious. I knew she would call that day, because it was the conclusion of a week long set of tests. An ambiguous and ominous trail of doctors referrals and recommendations. We were looking for answers as to why my wife was having some serious health issues. The symptoms seemed to landslide in one morning, and all we knew was it was not ok, she was not alright.
Suddenly, in a singular moment things seemed to be more finite. She said words like, “incurable,” “disease,” “brain lesions,” “debilitating.” Dreams were being reimagined, some lost, others blurry and unclear. Let me be exceedingly clear, I did not say that I broke. There was no lack of hope, or questioning of faith. My world broke. The things I understood about my family. Goals I had as a parent and husband were upended. The craziest part of all of it, is I could do nothing. Here I was beating my body into submission on a daily basis in fitness training, developing skills in leadership and music by working hard to learn and seeking God’s direction. Then all of the sudden, figuratively and literally, I was powerless. I’m a fixer by personality, yet I found something I could not take away, repair, or solve.
So, I found myself in a light rain, in the dark, pacing my steps and breaths, probably trying to sweat out anxiety, sorrow and feelings of desperation. “Good, I can do this. Running is normal. Life is normal for the next few miles.” What began to happen on that run, with those guys, on that morning was exactly the same thing we had done for years. But, that day it hit me with all the force it could muster. God had grown something here, that I never saw coming. He had built the right relationships, that I was going to cling to for the next few years. It did not happen over night. It also took countless other seasons of grief and struggle in the lives of each one of those training partners for that day to be what God had designed.
I found a place that I could vent and be angry, weep and be sad, laugh and be joyful,
grit my teeth and be determined.
- They shared testimony of God’s faithfulness through their trials and pain.
- They listened and responded only when necessary.
Most of all, I finally connected the dots that God had been drawing all along. We were in the same boat.
- Each one of our wives was dealing with the incurable and unfixable.
I hobbled back to my truck, after pounding out the training run, and found myself seeing all the pieces God had relentlessly put in the puzzle that led to the moment I needed those connections.
I found myself saying aloud, “I cannot do life without relationship.”
I hope for all of you, that you are richly connected. I hope you have relationships that affirm and challenge you. Most of all, do not miss God’s hand in orchestrating relationships around you. He knows what you need and when you need it. You cannot do life to the fullest without relationship.
I stumbled into that connection, but I could have been much more diligent in cultivating those relationships. Since that morning of realization, it has been worth every effort to grow the relationships I have.