As a stay-at- home mom, I have a lot of opportunities to help out at my kids’ schools. I try to take advantage when I can. I love watching my kids learn and grow with their friends.
Last year, a permission slip came home informing us there would be another field trip to the National Institute For Fitness and Sport in downtown Indy. The times were such that I’d have to shuffle her little brother’s drop-off and pickup for preschool, so I declined. When I told my daughter I would not be chaperoning this time, she made a comment that impacted me more than she realized it would.
“But mom, it’s the National Institute For Fitness and Sport!” she insisted! “That’s perfect for you! It’s right up your alley!”
Do you ever have someone say something to you about yourself that stops you in your tracks and you think…me?! You think that of me?! That’s literally the thought that crossed my mind. I never really aligned myself with the words “fitness” and “sport.” Ever.
This may seem surprising to people who know me. I am an avid runner. I have completed a full marathon, nine half marathons (which is small potatoes compared to many of my runner friends but still an accomplishment), and many other 5k’s, 10k’s, and trail races. I have been a runner since I was 12 years old. I work out at home on days I don’t run, lifting weights and doing HIIT workouts. I can do some pushups, and I am thrilled that I am hammer curling 15-lb weights now.
And yet. And yet…my brain sometimes still gets stuck back in my youth. I wasn’t anything remotely close to athletic. I was a little chubby. As an early bloomer who grew to my current height (5’4”) at the tender age of 11, I was a head taller than all the tiny, skinny girls in my class. I was teased for my training bra, my acne, my height, and my weight.
I hated gym class. Everyone else seemed to be able to play sports and accomplish skills and win games better than me. I didn’t like my body. I didn’t know what my style was, so I resorted to big t-shirts (to cover up things I was still feeling ashamed of and confused about), baggie jeans, tennis shoes, and tight pony tails.
I started running track in seventh grade for the simple reason that I didn’t suck when I ran the mile in sixth grade, even though all my friends hated it. Plus, my thought process was, “I may not be sporty, but nobody gets cut from the track team so I’ll try it!” Then I realized I could keep running for long periods better than some of my classmates (everyone liked sprinting at that age. Long distance was lame). I wasn’t fast, per say, but I was persistent. And I was loving the runner’s high. Through a pure sense of “why not?” I continued on to run track and cross country all through high school.
Fast forward to age 35, and I have grown as an athlete on so many levels. But I still struggle with labeling myself an athlete. I didn’t even call myself a “runner” until after my full marathon in 2011. I didn’t think I was fast enough to be classified as such. (I have definitely learned it’s not about speed. It’s about passion and dedication. I know so many runners faster than me and slower than me.)
But the beautiful thing about kids is they don’t see who you were. They see who you are. And how often do we forget how far we’ve come? How dramatically we have grown since those tender, unsure pre-teen years? How often do those words we used to tell ourselves over and over again still sneak in to our heads between cups of coffee and jobs and parenting and bills? Many of us never made the jump from who we were to who we are.
Heidi sees me as an athlete. A fit mom. I never describe myself that way, but to her, it’s just the truth. Unbeknownst to Heidi, her words made an impact on me. It reminds me that my words have power over her as well. What I say to her will echo in her mind her whole life. It’s the same on a soul level. I think of the things God speaks over me every day in his word and through other people. When I feel lost in the world, and when I feel not good enough, I don’t have to accept that as truth. God calls me beloved. He calls me His child. He calls me a light. He gives me purpose. He promises a hope and a future and peace.
God never changes. I do. I often see that as a bad thing. I see all the ways I fail and make mistakes and am inconsistent. But what if we flip it on its head? What if we celebrate the fact that we as human beings can change? We aren’t even expected to stay the same! Only God is unchangeable. We, praise God, can grow and improve and get stronger, even if we falter along the way. What matters is who we cling to when we stumble: to the Rock, the One who keeps us steady.
Do we want to be more disciplined? With God’s help, we can. Do we want to be more thankful and full of joy? With God’s help, we can. Do we want to remain more patient and hopeful during trials? With God’s help, we can. Do we want to believe we can achieve difficult things? With God’s help, we can. Do we want to be more present, more mindful, and more intentional? With God’s help, we can. We will never be perfect and without fault. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try.
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we can’t change. But isn’t our own life proof that we can? As discouraging as it is that we change so constantly, it’s also encouraging that we can!
Do I feel it all the time? Definitely not. Does that make it less true? No, not one bit.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17
“There is no rock but the Rock of our salvation. No human heart is so hard that He cannot soften it, not even yours. Turn loose the idolatry of your always and nevers. Those words are true only of God. Ask him to sustain you through the ever-changing moments of this life. Ask him to change what you have believed to be beyond the power of His grace to alter. Our God of infinite sameness is a rock. When all around us is shifting sand, may we cry to Him, ‘Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge” (Psalm 61:2). -Jen Wilkin, None Like Him