I jog for a lot of reasons. For the health benefits, and the feeling of well being it gives me. For the hope that it will tone my legs (besides doing a number on my knees), and maybe even shrink the roll of baby fat that uncomfortably spills over my waist band. For the cool, crisp evening air; and the refreshing guzzle of lemon-tinged ice water to follow.
But perhaps, the greatest benefit is the release of my nervous energy at the end of a day. With each steady, plodding fall of foot upon pavement, my sneakers pound the questions that I’ve grown tired of asking. Many of them have to do with parenting. Questions like:
How can I do right by my kids, in every situation? Are my husband and I steering them in the proper direction? Are we giving them what they need – always, infallibly, with no developmental area neglected?
One area that I struggle with, for whatever reason, is team sports. I wasn’t very good at sports growing up, and always felt bad about it. Therefore, my intention with my own kids was to involve them in it early, so they could develop the abilities I never had. However, after one and one half seasons of enduring mini soccer alongside my first child, I realized he had little to no interest – and surely did not see sports as implicit to his sense of self-worth, as I had as a child.
On the other hand, he has always loved water and enjoys swimming lessons whenever I’m able to send him. He also loves to be with friends – goofing off, running around, and playing games – so the kid’s club at church was a win. I think that this is all great. But I still worry that I’m shortchanging him, especially when I hear other parents talk about kids who are heavily involved in sports.
As I thought about these things while jogging one evening, and my angsty trudging finally gave way to exhaustion, breathlessness, and its requisite calm, I remembered the Lord. “Please,” I prayed, “let there be nothing neglected. May there be no inadequacies in the upbringing of our kids.”
His reply came as swiftly as the words left my mind.
“But it is in the inadequacies that I do my greatest work.”
At once, my mind flashed images from my life. A collage – not of my proudest moments, but those of failure, weakness, lack, and disadvantage. And I knew in a moment…
My inadequacies, though disappointing, have taught me humility in the place of pride. They have caused me to refrain from drivenness and instead, to embrace contentment. They have helped me to develop compassion and mercy, where I would have otherwise been critical and judgmental.
Character is of great value, to Him. And the way that we treat others. Can we love them? Are we even capable?
Give up the selfish ambition. Then, maybe. Discover a sense of worth beyond achievements and accomplishments. Then…perhaps.
If so, that is the best possible outcome. For myself, and for my kids.
I will close with some of the passages of scripture I could stand to read every day. And as always, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
Philippians 2:1-4 NIV
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
James 3:13-18 NIV