I’ve recently returned to the sports world, well, I’m still wetting my toes really, and I was rather surprised at how much I fought it, seeing as it was the one thing I at one stage, actually for many years, fought so hard to remain part of. I took some time to just reflect a little upon this new venture of mine and why it was so difficult to wrap my head around it as well as allowing myself to enjoy it. I saw how God had to set me free from laws I made for myself, then I could see this beautiful process He had brought me on and now I’d like to share, maybe someone out there will feel encouraged by this, I hope.
My earliest memory; yes this may seem strange but it truly is as if my life began there or it was wiped out before that time and therefore I can only remember from this point; running up the hills we lived in, in a place called Helderkruin Rodepoort in a city called Johannesburg in South Africa, with my dad in the Volkswagen bakkie behind me. I was training for long-distance cross country running. I was ten years old at the time. My darling Staffordshire-terrier at my side, Zerah was her name – it means ‘rising light’ – and she really was a light in my life.
As my quads aced running up hill after hill after hill – as we lived right at the top – I never would have realised where that beginning would lead nor that the lessons I learnt in endurance sport would help me through some of life’s most trying trials. The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Cor. 15v46 ‘first in the natural and then in the Spirit’. Yes he is speaking of we first live in a human physical body and then in a spiritual one, but the concept is true for many of life’s events, and growths and happenings. It also explains why in every one of our lives we come to a place where we need to lay down something, for a time, before we can pick it up again. A process of dying if I may say so.
Jesus said to His disciples, the Pharisees and the crowd in John 10 v 17 – 18 ‘For this reason am I loved by the Father, because I give up my life so that I may take it again. No one takes it away from me; I give it up of myself. I have power to give it up, and I have power to take it again. These orders I have from My Father.’ So also there comes a time in all of our lives where the Lord asks us to give up something and the wise choice in that time would be to submit and do it. It is not forced upon us, we are not threatened with doom and gloom if we choose not to, nor does He love us any less – what does however make a significant difference in our lives are the riches beyond any earthly measure we begin to experience and enter in upon when we do submit and lay it down. The beauty of it is there always comes a time where the Lord gives us the chance to pick it up again, just like Jesus. No one forced Him to give up everything to live a humble servants life here on earth, misunderstood, rejected, alone, hated and then giving Himself up to be killed, taking on all the sins and diseases ever known or done by mankind from the beginning of time until the end to come, and then to rise again into glory giving us the victory over everything imaginable if only we believe. (1 John 5 v 4 – 5)
I willingly gave up triathlon and sport in general to come to Bible College and marry a man who was called to work for the Lord. After he passed and the children and I returned to Cape Town I wanted with full force to return to triathlon and marathon running and I went for it with a vengeance. But it was not possible. Well, if I chose to ignore the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit and put my children in school, continued swim coaching to have an extra income, and then trained with whatever remaining hours I had left in the day and took Saturdays and Sundays for long rides and group swims etc. and left the kids with hubby, then yes, I could have done it. But thank the Lord for the Holy Spirit who helps us to obey, who helps us to see, who shows us things to come and guides us into the truth. Because of continual accurate teaching, what I mean by this is teaching where we are spoken right with God, where when you walk out of a service or a meeting that force of righteousness lifts the burden of mistakes made, wrong choices, sins and twisted thinking right off your shoulders and turns you onto the way everlasting, like the currents in the ocean sweep you in the direction it is going. And now you want to do that which is right for your life and your family in the sight of God. For me it was to first serve my husband with grace and raise my children in wisdom and grace by the Spirit of the Lord till they come to the bend in the road where their path now runs there where the Lord is taking them.
What is interesting is a wise man has very often said; “the very thing you battled to give up, the very thing you so ardently pursued but could not have, by the time your character has developed and the time to release you into it has come, you don’t want it any more – then God can use you in it and then it is unto His glory and not for self-gain”. And this very thing is what I started this note with: I struggled for so many years to give up sport, and just complete the task the Lord gave, and to allow Him to work out His salvation in my life in the areas that were so very broken and shaky and crumbling, to make me whole again, to make my children whole again, to strengthen our bond as a family – that now when I stated to realise I don’t fit in anywhere, I fought it, and I fought hard! Until the Holy Spirit instructed me to sit still and be quiet. Then only did I see what was so obvious to my children especially – it is time to go back to the sports I love. And what a release it has been! For the first time in my life there is no striving to make training sessions, to be better than someone else, to have to eat this or that, and all the many laws and philosophies that go with sport and fitness. It is just a gentle peaceful state of being. Meeting new people, sharing stories and experiences, encouraging one another and having many laughs; the balance is there. I no longer want to compete to be significant, to be noticed, to be spoken of as someone great or hailed as a hero – rather now I do it simply because I love it. I do it because this is my farmland, this is the soil I need to till, where I will plant seeds, water them and then harvest them, all to the glory of the Lord Jesus. And this time I ‘m not going in with a hundred of my own plans and agendas, but rather I’m open to how ever the Lord wants to direct me. I understand now to; “Work willingly (train willingly) at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ.” (Col. 3v 23 – 24) I don’t serve people to please them, I don’t serve my ego or ambition to please me and sport is not my master, Jesus Christ is. Now He can fulfil His purpose through me in this arena.
Medals, accolades and more I cannot take with to heaven when I leave this earth suit. Nor do they count on my ‘resume’ once we stand before Jesus on the judgement day. I cheer for those who succeed, I encourage them pray with them for sponsors and injury free races and more. I back them 100%. There is nothing wrong with being good or even great at what you do in any field of life, but when the time comes to labour in something life changing, in something with generational consequences, to discern when that time has arrived and to willingly go with it. When we allow God to fulfil His work in us then it doesn’t matter what we do our focus will be right – to draw all men unto Him. If we make seeking Him and His Kingdom the most pre-eminent thing in our lives He will take care of all the things we think we need to take care of and He will add unto us that which is lacking. (Matt.6v24 – 34) Righteousness – right living; Peace – a life of peace even in the circumstances where it feels like there is no peace, that peace that surpasses our understanding; Joy – joy in believing that your Father loves you, joy unspeakable and full of glory, joy not dependant on your circumstances, what you have or don’t have – these are the kingdom.
When our focus is Christ and His work in and through us then the success will come anyhow. I am not saying all athletes who get married and become mothers must give it all up, different strokes for different folks – what I am trying to get at is this: we ned to discern the grace He has released for each of us to operate in, and to not compare one grace with another. What He has graced one person to do, may not be the same grace He has released for me to operate in. Our main task on earth is to make disciples to Jesus, this is a grace given to all who come to Christ (Matt. 28 v 18 – 20) so when I compete in the sports arena and the Lord allows this gift He gave me (James 1 v 17 – 18) to bring me before great men, and wherever this gift turns it prospers, as long as Jesus is at the centre of it, and I humble myself and give all the glory back to Him by acknowledging my Source (He gave me the ability, He put the right people on my path, He sent me the right coach or trainer, He provided the sponsors etc.) and I am not ashamed of Him, and I live my life according to His principles by treating others with kindness, speaking with grace and I allow the fruits of His Spirit to show in my life, then I am doing it as though it is for Christ, because it is. Then sport will not be my task master driving me to the ground to perform and please a god that cares nothing for me and turns his back as soon as things get tough or I am no longer deemed useful. If my family life suffers because of what I do regardless of sport, business world or politics, then I need to take some time and discern whether or not the grace to do this is still there or if it is time to let it lie for a while. Remember if I willingly lay it down, I have the authority to willingly take it up again at an appointed time. Let us not frustrate the grace of God in our lives, but rather flow with it willingly.
Being a wife and mother is not glamorous, it has no outward accolades, medals, pedestals, sponsors or financial gains – but it leaves behind a very real and definite mark, one that is carried about for generations. So take a moment to reflect, and let the Holy Spirit guide you. If you are driven then just repent, let the gentle saving grace of the Lord Jesus wash over you and invite the Holy Spirit to help you from here on in. Jesus is a gentle Shepherd, He does not drive people, He leads us and guides us, cattle are driven with whips and horses and shouts. Jesus leads us to still waters and green pastures – a life of rest, where we operate from a place of rest, not anxiety, drive and ever running to a goal yet never really attaining. He leads us to contentment and from there all things are richly to enjoy. Be added to a local church where you can receive nourishment by the Spirit and learn to more accurately navigate your life, and keep Jesus at the centre of all you do. Just acknowledge Him as you cook, or ride your bike, or do your push-ups J All He wants is to be part of it all, He loves us and wants to be our best friend, so let Him. Let no one else lord over you, let Christ be Lord – His ruler ship is peaceable, gives life and has eternal rewards. It is an abundant life - a life not unto self, but unto Christ. Amen