Posted by: karanoel | December 17, 2019

Go in the strength you have

As you are probably well aware of by now, my walks are a lifeline. But things had been busy and I’d gotten out of my groove. Last Saturday, I had a window of time to walk in the morning before scheduled events crowded out the possibility, but I was feeling lazy and also a bit down, leaving me feeling lackluster about tackling my usual couple of loops up and around the hill I’ve grown to love. With a little encouragement from John, I begrudgingly headed out the door, knowing that – at some point – I’d be glad I did. 

IMG_7737.JPEGA mile or two in, I noticed how much slower my pace has become. More of a stroll than the power walk of years gone by. Nothing wrong with that, really, but something about it felt off. Maybe a little defeated. Then the strangest thing happened. In the midst of my normal jumble of thinking, processing and praying, God crashed in with a moment of clarity about a “should” I’d been carrying and a reminder that He leads me by joy, not duty. In an instant, the load lifted from my shoulders and my whole being was released in a bubbling burst of joyful delight and physical energy. Not only did I make it around the hill twice, but for the first time since living here, I added a third loop – at a quick clip – with my heart singing all the way. 

It brought to mind an experience I had this past summer. John had planned a trip for just the two of us to Yosemite around the anniversary of Cole’s death. It was thoughtful and touching, both because it’s my favorite place on earth and because we’d never seen Cole so happy and childlike as he was there. Since we didn’t have Chase on this trip, we were planning to do some actual hiking. Maybe not to Half Dome, which requires permits, waking up far too early to avoid the crowds, and a fitness level I don’t currently possess. But we could start with Upper Yosemite Falls, John suggested, which neither of us had ever hiked before and would still be a challenge. 

Normally, I love hiking. But we’d had a super busy summer and I’d gotten really sick and I felt extremely out of shape. Add to that a terrible night’s sleep, complete with a full-on bloody nose and accidentally walking into two of the lodge’s strangely placed walls during a restroom trip (which may have been connected events)…. and I just wasn’t sure I’d be able to complete this “very strenuous” six to eight hour hike with a 2,700 foot elevation gain that our friend had jokingly dubbed the Stairmaster 7000. When my legs grew tired on the flat, easy walk to the trailhead, any remaining confidence completely failed me.

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As we started to climb this stairway to heaven, carved out in stone before us, I let John lead as I kept repeating under my breath “but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength… they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint.” It wasn’t long before something magical occurred, much like the experience on my recent walk. A joy rose up from inside me, expressing itself in physical energy and a transformed mindset. I found myself saying – and totally believing – “I was made for this!” And, I kid you not, I started bounding up those steps (John took to calling me Billy Goat), and reached the top with far more energy than I had started with. The next day’s hike was the same and while I wanted to keep going until we couldn’t go anymore, I’m glad John’s voice of reason turned us around before then because the following day brought about some very sore muscles. So we wrapped up our trip with some lovely lounging, with a book in hand, by the sparkling river, enjoying this special time away together that capped off a difficult, yet very rich year and launched us into a new one, yet unwritten.

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Here’s the reason this matters. There are hills and mountains before each one of us that can be incredibly daunting. The enemy gets up close and intimate to lay out the specs of these hikes – how strenuous, how much elevation gain, how long it will take – and we listen so we can be informed, not taking into account how this particular source leaves out important information like the help we will be given all along the way. And then, while he has our ear, he will bring to mind how unfit we are to tackle such a thing. We are out of shape, after all, and have been through so much already, and certainly don’t have the reserves or experience or training necessary. It’s going to be a dismal trudge, he’ll say. Why not bide our time and not set out quite yet? Or maybe not set out at all? And so, before we even start, we feel tired, discouraged and defeated.

But that is all irrelevant information because, as counterintuitive as it seems, our own strength and ability are not prerequisites for the journey ahead, no matter how difficult. They can actually be a hindrance because they cause us to trust in and depend on our own limited resources, exhausting (while also exalting) ourselves in the process, rather than depending on God’s limitless resources which release joy and supernatural strength, reveal and establish our true identities and glorify God in the process.  

I can’t help thinking of Gideon who was called by God to lead Israel to battle against the Midianites. He was an unlikely candidate, being as he said, the weakest link in the weakest clan, who believed the Lord had abandoned Israel and delivered them into the hands of the enemy. Not quite the “mighty warrior” the angel called him – or not yet, anyway. Instead of God beefing up his army to boost his confidence, God beefed up his heart and proceeded to whittle down his army from many thousands to 300 men. So he could feel discouraged or defeated from the start? No! His victory was already secure. It was so he couldn’t boast, “my own strength has saved me.”

The Lord had said to him, “Go in the strength that you have… Am I not sending you?” For Gideon, to “go” meant taking steps with trembling knees, big question marks about God’s faithfulness and a massive sense of “unqualified” tattooed on his mind, but that’s all God asked for… the strength that you have. It resulted in an astonishing victory for Israel under the leadership of this weakling whose identity as a warrior was revealed and established along the way, as was His relationship with the God who sent Him. It’s the same thing He’s asking us to do today: to go in the strength that we have. He is the one sending us and He is the one whose strength will deliver us. We won’t start out being warriors, just like the jugs of water at the wedding in Cana didn’t start out as wine. But there will be a transformation along the way – a joyful, energizing and empowering one – as God arms us with strength and makes our way perfect; as He makes us surefooted as a deer, enabling us to stand on mountain heights. (Psalm 18:32-33)

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Responses

  1. Kara:

    I continue to be blessed with your writing. You are consistent—a home run hitter! Really wonderful to see your parents when we were out there. Maybe I already said that. Keep ‘em comin’ Paul

    >

    • Thank you, dear Paul! I’m so glad you got to see mom and dad. They always enjoy their visits with you.

  2. Amen, Kara.


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