She’s a farmers wife. We keep dreaming about getting both of Farmer’s together to talk tractors. She and I keep notes on weather and crops and words in each other’s parts of the world. I reached across a table once and grabbed Jennifer Dukes Lee‘s hand and I told her I believed in God’s gifts in her and I prayed for His words through her to keep coming. She’s a pure-hearted, soul-encouraging woman after God’s own heart and reading her always makes me read more of Christ everywhere. Humbling grace to invite Jennifer to the farm porch…
My daughter and I stood at the starting line with numbers 566 and 567 safety-pinned to the fronts of our shirts.
We were excessively optimistic about the road race ahead of us.
And we weren’t the only ones. All around us, there was a palpable buzz of expectation as fidgety runners stretched and bounced.
A robin chirped. The sun warmed our backs. I squeezed my daughter’s hand.
It was the perfect kind of spring day – the kind when everyone, even the spectators, ventured out-of-doors with short sleeves. The kind of day when your kid doesn’t give you an eye roll when you flash your trademark, overly enthusiastic mom grin.
“On your marks,” a growly man called out, raising his starter pistol in the air. “Get set.”
Boom! He pressed the trigger, and a puff of smoke rose from the barrel. In a blur, my daughter and I set out on the course, side by side, with only a few inches of pavement between us.
That’s how it went for a good mile, maybe two. We ran like mad, and a gentle breeze tangled with our hair.
But our bubble of optimism popped when the route veered out of town, onto the country roads. The gentle breeze morphed into a ferocious wind, whipping across the fields.
Runners passed us on both sides, apparently impervious.
Meanwhile, our run turned into something more like a wog – not quite walking, but barely jogging. We mopped our brows with the backs of our hands. Whatever direction we turned, the wind set its battering face against us.
This painful wilderness lasted for approximately forever.
We were still a half-mile from the end of our race, when my daughter squeaked out a breathless plea: “I don’t think I can do it.”
I knew the route, and I knew how close we were. “You can do it, girl! I believe in you! You. Can. Do. It.” (Though I wasn’t entirely sure if I could.)
Then, mercifully, we turned the last corner of the route. Up ahead, a white banner flapped over a spray-painted line on the street.
“Look, Lydia!” I said between ragged breaths. “We’re really … going to … make it!”
Lydia’s weariness magically lifted. The two of us felt weightless, like our shoes were three feet above the street, like we could fly.
I grabbed Lydia’s small hand. Tears burned the corners of my eyes.
“I’m so … proud of you, …. honey! …. You did it!”
Lydia turned her head to me: “I’m proud … of you too … Mommy!”
Lydia had completely forgotten that, minutes earlier, she didn’t think she could take another step. Or that we’d been left in the dust of everyone on the course.
Because now? The end was in view.
It didn’t matter that that the loudest applause had already been offered. Or that the shiny medals hanging around other necks. It didn’t matter that we were last.
It mattered that we made it.
In those last steps toward the finish line, it felt like the heavens burst open with a metaphor for life down here on planet earth.
The only race worth running — the only life worth living — is the one where everything else is counted as loss: every medal, every resume, every credential. Life’s not about applause or mentions.
Life’s not about earning anyone’s love, but believing that you already are God’s beloved.
Life’s not about reputation, but redemption.
We have nothing to prove. For in Christ, we are already approved – preapproved.
Some of us? Some of us jump out of the starting blocks of life with grand plans to prove something to ourselves and to prove something to the world.
We’ve got plans for straight As, and better hair, and a smaller jean size, and a corner office with an engraved door plate. There’s nothing wrong with an “A” or an atta-girl every now and then, but a woman can get so busy keeping up with the Joneses, that she forgets to keep step with Jesus.
And suddenly, your life feels more like a competition than a communion.
We could get so busy moving our feet, that we might forget to stop and wash feet. We could get so busy building empires, that we forget how to yield as servants.
(And even engraved door plates rust.)
Look, you can try to outrun Jesus all you want, but Jesus’ love will never, ever run out. And if you’re in last place, remember who actually comes in first.
That morning, as my daughter and I neared the end, we could see the announcer on a flatbed trailer at the finish line.
That man is my earthly father.
Dad has presided over the finish line for years. Some of the runners show up with arms raised and fists pumping. Others limp their way to the end. A few fall to their knees. Some cry.
No matter how they get there, Dad wants all the runners to hear their names. He once told me that he would never leave the finish line until the last runner crossed.
My daughter and I couldn’t wait to hear our names. And now we were seconds away.
Dad was looking right at us. And I don’t think I’m imagining the sparkle in his eye. He lifted the microphone: “Way to go, Lydia Lee! You made it!” The crowd cheered for that fierce little runner.
Then I heard my father’s words for me:
“And that’s my daughter, Jennifer!”
I suppose the crowd applauded. I can’t be sure. All I remember were the words my father saved for me, his daughter. These were the words of a father who loved me before I took my first step, and who was waiting for me at the end, even if I limped across the finish line.
And I knew in that moment, that the best words of approval we will ever hear will come at the finish.
Friend, there really is a finish line.
There really is a great crowd of witnesses, waiting. You can’t see them, but they are already cheering for you.
There really is a Father, waiting to welcome you. And He decided to love you before you took your first step. He decided to love you even before He made the world.
Believe that you are loved. Already.
In this life, you may never get the applause you hoped for. Someone else may end up with the medal you worked hard for. The crowds might remember your name, and then again? They might not.
But you will finish. And when that finish comes into view, you will run like mad, and the wind will whip through your hair, and you’ll forget how bad it hurt sometimes.
Because you can’t wait to cross over and hear the words you were created to hear at the finish, the approval you were running for all along: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
(This post was adapted from the epilogue of Love Idol.)
They have begun to change their hearts, by changing the words they use. Instead of believing they have something to prove, they are reminding themselves that they have nothing to prove. They are affirming their preapproved status in Christ.
Join them, by tacking these Printable Preapproved Reminders anywhere that you feel like you’re falling short in life … anywhere your inner critic tells you that you’re “not enough.” And that endless, exhausting crusade for approve that leaves you exhausted? Ends in the highly recommended pages of: Love Idol.