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Friday, July 15, 2011

Life Full of Hurdles? Consider This...

Hi Friends,

Well, after weeks of facing horrible kidney stones (again), two surgeries (again), painful 2-foot-long stents in both my ureter tubes (again) and a stint in the hospital (blech), followed by the big Firecracker Frenzy gymkhana show and week away with the family (fun too!), God has reminded me of a horse story about facing the same trials over and over again (Note: the first couple pictures are of Joelle on her new horse, Ruby, doing hurry scurry in June - I don't have a picture of Oreo over the jumps). This story encouraged me when thinking about going through the same hard things that I've been through before, and I thought you might find hope in it too as you face hurdles in your own life. See what you think . . .

I held my breath as my six-year-old, Joelle, rode her Paint mare into the arena. The gate closed behind her. She paused and glanced at the three short jumps of the Hurry Scurry race. A small smile brushed her lips.

Then, she urged the horse forward.

I gripped the fence rail and watched Oreo approach the first jump at a gentle lope. Closer, closer, up and over. I let out my breath.

Joelle and Oreo turned the far pole and headed back, over jump number two. Clear. Over jump three. Clear again. And through the timing poles, perfect.

I whooped and cheered and pressed my hand to my thudding heart.

They’d done it, and done it beautifully.

A wide grin lit Joelle’s face as she patted Oreo’s neck and guided the mare out the gate.

I rushed over to them, calling, “You did it, you did it, you did it!”

Joelle turned. “Oreo did it.” She leaned over and hugged the horse’s neck.

And she was right. Oreo did it, but only because they’d practiced and practiced and practiced. When we’d gotten Oreo just two months before, the mare was terrible at jumping. She’d hesitate as she approached the jump, then she'd stumble over, her back feet banging the crossbar. The jump was always jumbled up afterward. It was ugly. It was awkward.

But Joelle didn’t let Oreo quit. She kept giving her chance after chance to figure out how to do it right. At home, they'd lope around the arena and jump and jump and jump, until Oreo hesitated less and less, until her legs cleared more frequently, until the awkwardness decreased with each try. And Joelle didn't get angry at Oreo for not doing well. She didn’t scowl or scold, punish or frown. She just kept giving her chances to practice, and encouraging her with pets and praise for each improvement.

Later that day as Joelle went up to get her second place ribbon for the Hurry Scurry, I thought about how God’s interactions with me are a lot like Joelle’s with Oreo. I too have things I’m not so good at. Sometimes, it’s considering others first, or trusting him in difficult circumstances, or finding peace in chaos (that's a tough one for me!), or fighting fear in certain specific areas of life.

As I approach those hurdles, I often hesitate, I stumble over, I bang my feet, and it can be both awkward and ugly.

Then, too often, my response to a not-so-perfect jump is to think badly of myself, to criticize and accuse and feel that surely God is scowling and scolding, punishing and frowning. I condemn myself for not having enough faith, for not flying through a situation perfectly, or not being as good as someone else going through a similar thing.

But standing there, cheering for Joelle and Oreo reminded me of James 1:2-4 (NIV): “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I used to read this verse as “be happy about your hardships,” which seemed crazy. But now I believe James really means that we can be glad that we don’t go through trials for nothing. God uses the hurdles of life to help us become the people he envisions us to be. We just have to keep going, keep trying, because that’s what perseverance is.

So, when I face the same tough hurdles of life over and over, it’s not because God is punishing me, it’s because he’s giving me an opportunity to practice, grow, and improve until I can jump smoothly. He's saying, "You'll get it. Let's try it again. I'm giving you another chance, and another, and another." He doesn't expect me to be able to clear every jump the first time, or even the second or third. Instead, he’s giving me a chance to get a little better, a little faster, a little smoother, until I’ve mastered the things I once wasn’t so good at. Perhaps, in time, I too will be like Oreo, flying over the jumps with my feet not even touching. And maybe, someday when I reach heaven, there’ll be a prize for me too, and then even the angels will clap and cheer.

Above is a picture of Joelle doing Speed Barrels on Ruby at the Firecracker Frenzy.

And finally a picture of Jayna going over the jumps with Valentine:


{amy} said...

Good stuff! I've never thought about that verse saying to be glad that we don’t go through trials for nothing. Great perspective! Thank you for the encouragement!

Marlo Schalesky said...

Thanks, Amy!