The house seems empty.
All the Christmas decorations are packed in boxes. The colored lights are shut off. The beautiful Christmas tree is stuffed carefully away. The stockings no longer hang on the wall.
And my heart feels shuttered with the rest of the holiday cheer.
It is now January, and Christmas is just a memory. So much energy goes into the planning and anticipation of the big day. We celebrate with family and friends and enjoy each moment of the gleeful faces and joyful squeals as our children tear into thoughtfully chosen gifts. We feast, we play and then we crash.
My anticlimactic attitude has gotten the best of me.
What I have somehow lost sight of is that Christmas was never intended to be the end all – be all. It is simply the beginning.
I will never forget the joy I experienced when I became a Christian. I remember praying and asking Jesus to come into my heart and to be my God that Saturday evening. I could not wait to wake up and go to church the next morning so I could tell anyone who would listen that Jesus saved me and that I would live forever in heaven with Him because of what He did for me! My enthusiasm and passion could not be contained!!
That was the start of my life with Christ. Just like Christmas, it seemed full of lights and sparkles and gifts and cheer. I cherish God’s salvation to this day, and am so grateful for His intervention.
Yet, there have been many times in my life, whether because of difficult circumstances or personal apathy, that I’ve crashed and the joy of my salvation has been boxed up and put in the garage. My energy to participate in ministry has decreased and appetite to grow spiritually has waned.
When I ran track in high school, my coach cruelly decided to make me run the 400 meter dash. To this day I believe it is the most grueling and terrible distance created for competition. It requires sprinting an entire lap around the track. Where I struggled most was the second 100 meters. The adrenaline is pumping around the first curve of the track out of the blocks at the sound of the gun. But then the track straightens out as you run the back side of the course, away from the stands and the crowd. You are still sprinting, but trying to decide at what pace to continue knowing you want to push through the next curve and leave it all on the track to race to the finish line in the last leg. It was always the backside that slowed me down and played tricks with my mind.
I am finding myself in that second stretch of the race. I am no longer at the beginning of my walk with Christ, and have dug in and grown deep in my faith. God has given me the energy and desire to run hard and move forward. But as I enter the next 100 meters, I can no longer see the finish line without turning my head, breaking my momentum and falling back. The sounds of the cheering crowd are now replaced with my feet methodically hitting the track in between deep breaths. This is where it is easy and tempting to let up ever so slightly and to rationalize such a choice.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul urges believers to continue on for the sake of the gospel.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.
– I Corinthians 9:24
For many Christians, including myself, most of our lives are spent in between our salvation and our final eternal destination. There is a lot of race to run. After the initial adrenaline rush, we face the decision of settling into a spiritual routine or receiving a second wind from the Holy Spirit to continue to sprint even though we may not see the finish line.
This year, I want to run hard. I want God to dig deep into my life and smooth out what may be resisting Him and decreasing my passion to win His prize. I desire for God to increase my faith and teach me how to trust and love Him more. I need God’s presence more than ever to keep my feet moving forward with zeal and determination.
After all, Easter is right around the corner.