Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Embracing the Struggle

I have recently decided to take up biking as a hobby so that I can get some exercise in while also having fun.  I don’t know about you, but no part of running is fun for me, so biking seemed like a fun alternative.  Someone had given my parents a bike so they offered it to me to ride whenever I wanted to.  They just built the Tweetsie Trail, which is a biking and walking trail, near my house and I thought I’d take their bike, which I hadn’t ridden yet, and go for a ride on the trail.  Keep in mind that I also bought one of those camelback backpack deals to wear while I was riding.  When I commit to a hobby, I really commit.  The first day I decided to go for a ride, I had to put air in the tires of the bike because they were flat.  That was a challenge because I didn’t have a bike rack for my car at that time so I had to stuff the bike into the back seat of my Nissan Altima.  You can imagine me fitting an adult sized mountain bike in the back seat of my car.  After finally getting air in the tires and my backpack filled with water, I decided to avoid the trouble of loading the bike back into my car and ride to the trail.  That was another obstacle because the trail was farther away from my house than I thought.  I ended up having to walk my bike about a mile and a half uphill.  It was a cool 91 degrees on that day, so walking up that hill made me wonder why I thought biking would be a cool hobby.  After the tumultuous journey up the mile long hill, I finally got on level ground and the trail was within sight.  I excitedly hopped on my bike and started to coast toward the trail.  The wind was in my hair and the sky was a deep blue.  At that moment, I had forgotten about how hard it had been to get to that point and just enjoyed the ride.  It was so peaceful and freeing….until it wasn’t anymore.  Not longer than a minute after I got started, my back wheel was pushed against the frame of the bike and would not budge.  I clearly don’t know much about bikes, but I knew enough to know that I wasn’t going to be riding that bike that day.  After stewing in my anger for about ten minutes, I called my dad and he picked me up.  The tire was wedged against the frame so hard that I couldn’t even walk the bike home.

I got home and unloaded the bike, still very angry that my hobby wasn’t really going the way I had thought, when I got a phone call from WCYB telling me they wanted to come do a story on God’s calling in my life to start a community center in Elizabethton.  Of course I agreed to do the story because I saw it as a great opportunity to get the community aware and involved in what God has planned.  Right before I hung up the phone they added, “And we’d like to do it in about an hour.  See you at the school!”  I was a stinky, sweaty mess from “biking” adventure so I didn’t really have time to think.  I went inside and rushed around to get ready and got to the school just in time to meet the reporter.  I was so blessed by the interview because the questions she asked me were a good reminder as to why I feel so passionately about God’s calling in my life.  She asked me at one point why it was important that I start a community center.   The answer for me is pretty simple.  It’s not about charity or making myself feel good, it is the way God calls us to live.  Elizabethton is my community and I feel very passionately that God has called me to take care of them and for them to do the same for me.  How different might life look if we all looked out for one another?  The whole interview only took about 45 minutes and as the reporter packed up, I gave her the community center email so that people could write to me about the center if they wanted to.  I really wasn’t sure what kind of response I would get.

Because of the story, I received so many emails of people who want to volunteer once the center is finally up and running, but I also got emails from people in other communities saying that they were inspired to do God’s work in their cities and towns.  The response I got was so overwhelming.  Even the head of the atheist society in a surrounding city commented on the story on the web and said he wished me well on my journey to start the community center.  I mean, WOW, God works in awesome ways.  I give Him all of the credit for the amazing response to the story.  In the days following, I started to really think about how God’s plan in my life is so incredible.  I was so angry about not getting to go on my bike ride, but had I made it out on my ride as planned, I might not have been close enough to my house to make it to the school in time to do the story.  God knew that those people who reached out to me needed a nudge to follow His call in their lives. 
One thing I can say about this journey is that it has been a struggle.  Just like my bike ordeal, it has been full of many ups and downs.  There are days when I just want to cry and give up because I have no idea what I am doing.  I get so frustrated that I can’t just have the center already so that I can start to get really involved with the community.  Honestly, I am always tired from thinking about it and how little I know about starting a nonprofit, but I have learned that it’s important to embrace struggle.  God uses trials in our lives to help us grow in Him.  Through my frustration, exhaustion, and anger I have seen how far God has brought me.  I can see how much I clearly need Him.  I can see how little I trust Him and how I need to spend more time with Him to work on that.  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  God loves me so much, that He stands with me in power, even when I am weak.  Nothing brings me more comfort than that does.  No matter what I face on this journey ahead, I know that I need to embrace my struggles, because they are an opportunity to strengthen my relationship with God.