Finding Our Way

As a child, getting lost in Woolco (not a typo, and yes it dates me horribly) or Sears was my worst nightmare. As a mom, the thought of a child lost, could keep me awake most of the night. Feeling lost is scary. The unfamiliar feels threatening and the cold fingers clenched around our hearts makes it hard to breathe. Being lost isn’t just a physical condition; we can be lost but in the line of vision of a loved one, a friend, a family member. How many of us feel lost on a daily basis but we are within reach of someone we know?

Our world no longer looks like it did. We haven’t got a clue what the next step is let alone a five year plan. 

Or every day is the exact same as the one before it and we feel invisible in the mundane chores of making meals, cleaning up after kids, soothing hurt feelings or scraped knees. We are lost in the ordinary.

Perhaps, decades after walking down the aisle, the bright shiny newness of a marriage is long gone and we have retreated to our own lives and worlds. Is there a way out of invisibleness?

Hitting mid-life but feeling like we haven’t even begun to make our mark. But we’re “old” now and doesn’t the world belong to the young? Where do we go from here?

We just want someone to notice us. To invoke sense in this crazy place, called earth. So we turn to social media and post, hoping to get a bite. We try new mediations, new diets, new anything, just as long as it changes up the old. We look for direction everywhere but come up empty.  

In this quest of being found, are there answers? Or a map? A map would be really good right about now. The answer is yes.

The first part involves a belief. I found this quote one day reading. I see myself in Susan May Warren’s words. Do you see yourself?

“Because she’d refused to believe she was important to Him. She’d been trying to get his attention, but already-always-had it…She had it whether she had logged miles for the gospel and saved hundred of lives, or if she simply wiped toddlers’ noses and did mounds of laundry. She had God’s attention because she was His child.”  (P. 300, The Perfect Match, by Susan May Warren.) 

Believing we are his child and that he pays attention to us, is perhaps the first step to finding our way. For some of us, this may be the hardest step because it means dealing with a lot of lies we have believed up to now. It’s going to take some work but it’s crucial if we really want to find our way.

Jeremiah gives us the next step. 

This is what the Lord says: 

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Jeremiah 6:16

We stand at a crossroads trying to figure out which way to take. We ask everyone who passes by or maybe we keep quiet, trying to figure it out on our own. The thing is, there is only one person who knows the way, who has the map but too often, he is the last one we seek. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t trusted we’re his child to begin with. Perhaps  we’re mad at him or we want control of our lives. There are so many reasons and distractions that steer us away from him but He is our Way.

Ask for the ancient paths, which according to my NIV study bible, means the “tried and true ways of Judah’s godly ancestors.” This has worked before.

Ask where the good way is. Then walk in it. Ask, ask, walk; to find our way out of the dark, the confusion, the bitterness, or whatever else is making us feel lost or invisible. The result? Peace for our souls. And a map Home.

When You’re Relegated to Riding the Bench

I spent my youth at the ball diamond. The sharp crack of a bat, the clang of the chainlink fence, and the smell of the softball diamond dust floating in the air, remind me of many good times. With the exception of the year I warmed the bench. It was my first year playing softball and I was about nine years old. After try-outs, I was told I could be on the team but I wouldn’t be playing much. This was partly because my twin had successfully procured her position and I don’t think the coaches wanted to say yes to her and no to me. In my enthusiasm. I agreed to the deal. 

To say it was my most challenging sporting year would be an understatement. Riding the bench is hard. With the exception of a couple of innings of play, I sat, the dust from the diamond, coating my skin and lips. I tried to be upbeat, cheering on my friends but all I really wanted was to be put in the game. I knew I could do it if I was just given the chance. 

Isn’t that what we all want? The chance to prove we can do it.

It’s why riding the bench is the pits. We sit around waiting; in our jobs, in relationships, in our dreams, maybe our health, when all we really want to do is show everyone what we’ve got. No one wants to ride the bench in sports or in life.

But it’s on the bench where some valuable lessons are learned if you can get beyond the longing and resentment.

Sitting on the bench teaches you:

Humility. Your ego and pride have got to go, as you sit there on that hard bench, your very clean jersey announcing to everyone around, that you haven’t played. At. All.

Your job as a benchwarmer is to encourage your teammates, even though you really want to be the one out there, making plays. You’re learning that it isn’t all about you.

Patience. You have to wait your turn. It may be a really long wait. My father-in-law pointed out that as a “bench player” you still have to be prepared, in case you’re called into the game. You have to pay attention to what’s going on. The reward of actually getting into the game may be a long way off.

Perseverance. Any of us who have warmed a bench, knows it takes a lot of grit to stay with it. You want to quit. You want to have a hissy fit. But you still show up to every practice and give it your 100%. You work hard to be ready. Quitting is not an option. It tests you. Is this what you really want? Is it worth all the pain and waiting? Because if it is, you’re not going to give up. You’re going to keep going and keep training. You are going to endure the wait and be ready when your name comes up.

Riding the bench forges character in a way other circumstances can’t. I’m not going to lie, it’s not pleasant. It’s a season that will challenge you like no other. 

If you’re in a place right now where you’re riding the bench, I feel your pain. It hurts and it’s frustrating but if you stick with it, you’ll come out the other side, refined. And eventually you’ll get the nod from the coach. I did.

I tried out the next season and made the team. As a full fledged member. I played competitive softball for the next decade. I did some bench warming but never like that first year. I never took for granted that I would play either. But the patience and perseverance paid off and I enjoyed many summers with my friends playing some great softball.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.  Romans 5: 3-5 NLV

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