I’m not much of a runner. I never have liked to run, but I do like to walk and when my ankle and knee are working as they should, I like to walk quickly. In great shoes, with the dogs, by the river, down the street, in the yard – quickly and slowly as the need and mood hits. But, the thing about walking is really getting to where you are trying to go and “finishing the race.”
One of the reasons I never liked running is because of the classic stitch in my side. That is that pain in your abdomen that you get when you are running. And, really the thing about the race is that it is not always a pain free trip. Instead, we hear from God’s word about “rejoicing in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Rejoice in my sufferings? Wouldn’t that belike cheering because my side hurts if I’m running? That picture seems so so wrong! And yet, this is my limited human view that doesn’t really understand.
The thing is, is that as you have a chance to look back on a life serving and seeking God, you will most likely start seeing a pattern. The difficult times, those stitches in our sides, they strengthen us and provide us depth. God’s perfect gifts are not disappointments, “because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
Have I experienced some stitches in my side? Yes. Of course! It’s life. But, look at the chain of things that are coming about. Suffering (that would be the unpleasant part), leads to perseverance. In other words, the stitch in my side, teaches me to work through it. This learning to work through things leads me to character. Learning to stick out a task until it’s done, and to do my best at it – regardless of if it’s for public consumption or not. When I have character, then hope comes next. Hope! A precious flower of a word that both fills us and blooms in us.
Eight days away from the retreat, and I’m thinking about stitches that I’ve experienced, along with learning perseverance. Yes, those character building moments have come as well and so has hope. I don’t always understand the stitches in my side, but I’m focusing on having deep down joy through the circumstances.