Crashing Through the Quitting Places

Often, I take the back roads near my house in order to access the main highway.  Though this path is quite curvy to navigate, the scenery is striking.  My favorite corner along this route houses a pasture where a large horse can often be seen grazing.  Two miniature horses are usually accompanying him.  These beautiful animals always bring a smile to my face.  I go a little further and approach what the townspeople  here call “death bridge”.  It is a narrow, rickety one-way bridge that spans over the railroad tracks below.

As I prepare to cross the bridge my eyes always come to rest on a landmark that has become an eyesore to me, and likely to all who pass by.   Several years ago a garden center occupied several acres in this location.  It was sold to a developer who planned to build an active retirement community.  The developer displayed his plans, and made a start….but never finished.  Years later this project consists of a few unfinished cement walls covered with graffiti and weeds.

For some reason, the builder did not finish what was started.  I don’t know what obstacles stood in the way.  Perhaps he could not get the financing or he ran into various permit restrictions.  Maybe he just changed his mind.  Whatever happened, this collection of cement, graffiti and weeds is now only a monument to what “could have been”.  I  am always reminded of the scripture on the cost of following Jesus described in Luke 14:28-30

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? [29] For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, [30] saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’

I want my life to always reflect Jesus, instead of becoming an unfinished monument to “almost, woulda, shoulda”.

Often, we are tempted to quit before we reach breakthroughs that bring about victory or completion.  Perseverance is hard.  We don’t even ‘experience’ perseverance until we want to quit.

When are you tempted to quit?  Perhaps it is when trying overcome a character weakness or sin; or perhaps it is beginning a new, good habit.  Maybe you know you need to find God and yet find excuses that keep you from following through.  You may need to resolve a relationship that seems too hard or begin one that seems overwhelming.   Do you have a dream you want to pursue…but think of a thousand reasons why it won’t work?

Through the years I have come to trust that God is capable of empowering me to do whatever He asks of me.  Yet, there are times I tire of pushing through difficulties, or welcoming new areas where I  can grow spiritually.  Sometimes I  get weary of simple mundane tasks like dishes, laundry and flossing my teeth.  Then I think of scriptures such as Hebrews 10:35-39

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. [36] You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. [37] For in just a very little while,

“He who is coming will come and will not delay.

[38] But my righteous one will live by faith.

And if he shrinks back,

I will not be pleased with him.”

[39] But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.

These words help me to crash through the quitting places in my life. And I still hope that one day, as I pass by the concrete slab on the way to the highway…the weeds will be gone and the foundation that was started will be a vibrant and active community, another garden center, or even a pasture where a few more horses can feed. It’s not too late.

Oh my! What did I get myself into?!

Have you ever been faced with a decision you made….and later thought – “What in the world was I thinking?!”  Last night, as I gathered a travel crate, blanket and  puppy collar for packing, I felt a bit of fear and trepidation.  In fact, I felt more than a “bit”.  You see, “dog life” has gotten quite easy over here.  Our little ten year old cockerpoo goes out once in the morning and then again at night.  We don’t even have to walk outside with him if the weather is bad. Meanwhile, he just wanders from the sofa to his little bed, circling each place a few times until he settles on the best spot for a nap.

Wyndham leaves for a meeting this afternoon and plans to come back in a couple of days with a little something in that travel crate I mentioned – an eight week old puppy full of life and energy.  I have found myself wondering what in the world  I agreed to- and what insanity entered my mind to do this again?!  My “easy dog life” is about to be over.  I must confess I felt a slight sense of panic.

In my future I am seeing several weeks of puddles and worse, perhaps a chewed chair leg or two along with some mangled toys that were intended for the grandchildren’s play.  I’m sure there will be lots of hair for daily vacuuming, vet bills.. and if we are fortunate to have many years with him…another heartbreak twelve to fourteen years from now.

So, why in the world would I do this?  Because the sheer joy he will bestow on me when I come in the door after being gone; the eagerness he will have to please us; his ability to love unconditionally; his longing eyes and cute antics; his energy and zeal; his head that will rest on my knee, and most of all his devotion as a loyal friend will make it all worth it. It’s really about the relationship between a “man and his dog” and a “woman and her dog”.

So, having made a deposit earlier, I just wrote a check for the remainder of the payment.  I sighed a bit, but then smiled.  To us, he is more than worth the cost.  We weighed it, and considered it long and hard.  I’m sort of glad we had to put a deposit down.  It helped me keep my resolve. When something doesn’t cost me anything, I am more apt to back out. I  made a wholehearted decision.  If I had kept wavering in indecision I would be miserable, and I would fail to enjoy this soon-to-be reality of a new puppy.  I can already “feel” his cuteness.

On a far weightier matter, I made a decision many years ago, when I was a teenager, to become a Christian – a follower of Jesus.  Since I came out of the waters of baptism there have been many exhilarating times, numerous challenges, victories and defeats.  I wouldn’t trade this life for anything.  I made a big decision to turn my life over to Jesus’ care and direction…yet he made the far bigger deposit – his life.  That deposit, and the one he gave me of his spirit living in me, have helped me keep my resolve to follow Jesus. –  with no turning back!

Luke 9:23-25
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. [24] For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. [25] What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

Luke 9:62
Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

A decision to turn back would not only cost my salvation – but would also affect others who see my life.  Most of all….I would miss out on the most amazing benefit; a relationship with God that gives me forgiveness, friendship, family, purpose, identity, acceptance, fullness of life and so much more.  This relationship has such an amazing effect on all of my other relationships. I love this relationship that “I got myself into!”  Oh my!