I teach adolescents and teenagers and interact with them a great deal. At the end of the day, they have free-time and love to run. Since I used to run regularly and am very competitive, I sometimes join in or challenge them; however, this has taught me some things about myself.
They think I’m on the cusp of 30, which was more than a decade ago for me. And that’s eye-opening to me now. When you’re young, even well into your 30’s, you feel invincible. If you’re blessed with good health, the idea of disease or life lived in a chronic, decrepit, or degenerating condition is all but a foreign concept. Most young people haven’t had to closely interact with the sick or experience life in a way that makes them more aware of their mortality.
Then, you get older. And, like me, sprinting against kids more than half my age young, what was once so easy to do is now attended by pulls, aches, and windedness and next-morning tightness.
Seeking God Early
When I reflect on this, I also think of spiritual fitness, a real comparison. I remember when, as a pre-teen—as young as some I teach now—I became more serious than ever about living for Christ. My instinct was to do an about-face regarding everything, although I had never been bad.
I memorized scripture, prayed fervently, developed a regimented life in the disciplines, and discovered more joy in Christ than I could’ve imagined. I can attest to the truth of Ecclesiastes 12 about seeking the Lord in youth and before days of hardship.
But how is my spiritual life now—not the evolving young one, but the more experienced older one? I’m not nearly an old person, but I have walked with Christ consistently from my earliest youth. And I notice some things.
Contentment in Serving Christ
I don’t feverishly memorize scripture as I once did. It’s tough to keep a set hour of prayer, and I cannot pray for hours as I once did. The disciplines aren’t exciting and experimental as they first happened.
Although I rely on a concordance now, the scriptures are richer. My mind is squarely seated before God during my day; I don’t feel guilty about missing prayer. And I live each day with a conduct that was molded out of the deep discipline of yesteryear.
May I suggest that the spiritual life is slightly akin to physical life. Youth brings with it prowess and agility, but with age comes maturity, wisdom, and establishment. In my endeavor to know and embrace God, there is now far less attempt at it, much less nimbleness and feat, and much more rest in it—in him.
So although the river may not run as fast anymore, it certainly runs deeper than ever.
Sometimes life just gets in the way of being in tip-top form—you know, like that gym membership we’ve all owned that quietly expired without much use. But thank God that although fitness is appreciated at whatever stage you’re at, heart might matter more.
I’ve got just as much, if not more, determination to live for Jesus. Even better, the race is given to those who endure, and there are more ways to endure than by dexterity alone. Hey, my friend, don’t lose heart.