I’ve told the story before, but it is worth mentioning again of our family trips when I was young. We never really went on vacation as a family; that is to say, to places like Disney World or the Grand Canyon. We jst didn’t have the money for that kind of vacation. It was okay though because we didn’t know what we were missing. With four children in the family, we had plenty of entertainment.
My parents, like all parents back in the day, would pull out the old Rand McNally Atlas and once everyone was packed into the car, we would drive to my grandparents’ home in Texas. My father was raised in San Antonio, so making the trek across the country in our family Vista Cruiser from Indiana was quite a journey. Any time we were unsure of which exit to take, my mother (we children called her “Two-Lane Lorraine) would pull out the trusty Rand McNally to get our bearings.
Fast forward to 2019. These days you can dispense with old Rand and his sidekick and dial into your phone the address with zip code of your destination, and it will automatically figure your route for you along with gas stations, restaurants and points of interest along the way. Pretty slick. Except, there are times when the lady up in space doesn’t seem to know where you are. Ever get on the road, and she starts saying things like, “turn right at thus and such street…” but you’re already on Thus and Such street and then she has another glitch and says, “In 500 feet make a U-Turn” but you know you are on the right course? Somehow, she gets a smack in the head by the satellite and comes back telling you exactly where you are. It can be unnerving if you are out on a deserted country road and she goes on the fritz. You start to wish you had two guys named Rand and McNally in the car with you.
In terms of real-life direction navigation, one of the worst things that can happen is to lose sight of your goals. It is said that; in her first attempt to swim the English Channel, Florence Chadwick, due to fog and not being able to see the shore, gave up just 800 yards short of completing her goal. She was devastated after climbing into the boat to give up and discovering that she had less than a half-mile to success! She eventually tried again; this time with clear weather and became the first to swim the channel successfully!
Had she been able to see where she was in relation to the goal, she would never have thrown in the towel. That’s what happens when we can’t see where we are going. Discouragement sets in, and we begin to feel that the prayer will never be answered, the skill we’ve practiced for so long will never be mastered or the thing we have been saving for; will never be attained. Vision, along with perseverance are the two oars that enable us to continue rowing when all else tells us to stop. It is particularly important that even if the shoreline; like Florence Chadwick’s, is only in your mind’s eye, to keep the goal in sight. I have been on a championship team before, and I can tell you, there were many bumps on the road to the championship. I wanted to give up many a time!
There were the long practices, the tired, sore muscles, sacrifices that we didn’t want to make. At one point, when all of the team was discouraged, our coach would stand up year after year and make the same speech. You would think he would appeal to individual greatness in each of us…but he did not. He would say, “You have only one choice…just one.” “You can each try to be an individual State Champion OR, you can be a team player, and whether you individually capture first place (gymnastics), or not, by doing your best, the whole team can be State Champions.” He was right…and in the years the gymnastics program lasted, we won 13 of 17 State championships.
He knew he needed to show us something tangible to help our flagging vision during the hard times. Each year if our school won the championship, a city firetruck would meet us at the city limits, and we would all get on it and ride through the streets of our hometown with the siren blaring, and a banner that read STATE CHAMPIONS! Our coach, knowing that day was far off in the future for us, would go and purchase a model firetruck and hang it from the ceiling of our locker room with a sign that read…” Who wants to ride?”
Everyday, when we would enter that locker room, that firetruck hung there, offering us a vision if ours began to fade. I will never forget the faces of even the youngest gymnast on our team…beaming, on the day we saw that fire truck. It was not cool to cry, but I swear we all were misty-eyed, and our coach, stood proudly as we went through the town as champions once again.
You may be tired of working so hard for the goal you have of buying a home or saving for the car or vacation. You may have sacrificed for years, saving money to put your children through college. But Jesus says, “ASK and keep on asking, SEEK and keep on seeking, KNOCK and keep on knocking, for he who asks receives, he who seeks, finds and he who knocks, the door is opened.” Matthew 7:7.
Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
There are people; many of whom you don’t even know, who are cheering for you today. God says there is a great cloud of witnesses watching as you run your race. I encourage you, my friend, don’t give up. You may have had some real low points in your life, and maybe it seems your best days are behind you…they are not! Jeremiah 33: says,
“Call to me, and I will answer you, and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know” God isn’t mad at you. He won’t give up. His love never stops. He doesn’t say, “That’s it! I’ve HAD it with you!” God never blows his stack…never. Keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. The day is coming when the fog is going to clear, and you are going to see the shoreline!! The day is going to arrive when you see the firetruck …and all of the hard work and all of the sacrifice will melt away… on that day, when the joy comes.