Monday, February 28, 2011

Striving

Striving.

I'm guilty of striving for things that I probably shouldn't have.  The things I chased after so hard and for so long were often things of this world.  My motivations were fueled by pride, materialism, the need to be the best at something...at anything.  I worried that if I did not strive, continually push myself onward toward these goals that I had seared into my brain, that I would be worthless, looked-down upon, shamed.

For the last month or so, I've been thinking over this whole striving thing.  See, I've grown tired.  I have realized that all this pushing and pulling and climbing has left very little time for rest.  Continually trying to achieve some form of greatness in order to fill myself is a very exhausting process.  Trying to achieve the praise of the people in this world in each area of my life expends a lot of energy that I could really be using in more important ways.  

Yesterday in church (and yes, I actually did get to go to the service instead of being sequestered in the children's wing!), we read the passage from Matthew 6 -- all about not worrying what we will eat or drink or wear.  But there was one verse that completely confirmed all my notions about this striving business.  To get the greater context, I'm giving you some of the previous verses, but the one that hit my heart is in bold:

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, "What will we eat?' or "What will we drink?' or "What will we wear?'  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 

The act of striving may not be all bad, but the key is this -- What am I striving for?  The things of this world or for the Kingdom of God?  My house to be perfectly clean or for my guests to feel loved?  The writing to be perfectly crafted or the Word of God being spoken in kindness and in love?  My children being wonderfully behaved in public or my children knowing that they will always be unconditionally loved?

True to form, God gave me a very tangible example of how striving for the wrong reasons can ruin a perfectly good thing.  After two weeks, I decided to strap back on my running shoes.  For those of you who don't know, I've been running for almost a decade and stay motivated by running races.  For the last two weeks, I've either been sick with the flu or allergies or I've been too busy catching up from being sick that I haven't had time to run.  So, I had grand ambitions for my first run back. 6 miles at an even, quick pace, steady breath, easy.

Right out of the door, I'm lambasted by wind gusts and warm temperatures.  My pace is anything but even and I struggle to maintain what was so easy for me just a few weeks before.  I continually push myself forward, thinking I've only run 3 miles. I can't take a walk break now.  I just ran a half-marathon, for goodness sakes!  And God said, Are you training now?  What would really happen if you just walked?  What if you just slowed down, forgot about what people might think, what YOU might think, and just enjoyed being outside?  Perhaps now is not the moment for striving.

And that pretty much sums it up.  Striving for worldly measures is usually based on worry, on appearances, on filling something inside me that will not ever be filled by my own works.  Striving, for me, often negates enjoyment because I'm so focused on where I'm going that I forget to revel in the journey.

Have you struggled with striving?



Linking up with Michelle at Graceful.


9 comments :

  1. Striving negates enjoyment . . . wow. As you find balance in this area, Jen, enjoyment will bring your a lot of joy. How sweet of the Lord, to give you a practical illustration of yesterdays sermon.

    Did I miss that you weren't doing a link today? Part of your no striving? If so, this is good.:)

    Fondly,
    Glenda

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  2. i think striving for the world is the antithesis of peace.

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  3. Oh, I'm a striver. Striving goes hand and hand with that ugly thing perfectionism.

    I used to feel as if I couldn't stop. If I stopped I would crumble. It's weird, but I became addictied to striving. I'd like to say that is no longer me, but the truth is I just hide it better now.

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  4. I recently wrote about striving, too -- can totally relate...I am a big-time striver. It's exhausting, isn't it. Write about forebearance a couple of weeks ago helped me realize that periods of not striving, periods of rest and simply waiting, are good, too -- and can help you grow in the end.

    I just started back running again after a long hiatus -- a few months, yikes! So I can certainly relate to that part of the post, too. I have a draft sitting on my dashboard about running and faith -- we are on the same wavelength lately, friend!

    Thanks so much for linking up -- grateful for your smiling face and words of wisdom!

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  5. yah, I am with you. This whole 'runners brain' doesn't help this one bit! I love how the Lord speaks to us in such tangible ways. What's the motive? Needs to be the question. Hope you start feeling 100% again soon Jen.

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  6. Not long ago, my pastor was preaching through Jeremiah. In one of the sections, Jeremiah was exhausted in his efforts to do what God called him to do. Sometimes, even striving after good things for good reasons can be exhausting. I can get so busy doing things I believe God has called me to do that I forget to stop and just sit at His feet and rest in Him.

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  7. Jen,

    Wow, thanks for this post! I constantly struggle with striving. I long to strive for God's kingdom, not for earthly gain. It's a battle.

    And thanks for inviting me to this lovely community. I'll link up with you tomorrow. I was reading the description and I found myself resonating with your words--yes, yes, yes. I too long to make my life all about him, and I'm weary of the 'self' in me.

    So glad I've found a new sister who's striving for the same goal.

    -Mel

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  8. WOW...funny how God works huh? Matt 6, classic:)

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  9. I'm new to your blog but thought I'd post because I really connected with your thoughts. I know exactly how you feel. In my own life, striving for the wrong things seemed like what Solomon described in Ecclesiastes as "Chasing after the wind." But on the flip side, Paul said "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 win the prize."

    It's sometimes so hard to live to the full and seize the day, striving for things that truly matter. Something that's always really spoken to me about striving comes from Psalm 39:

    "Each man's life is but a breath
    Man is a mere phantom that goes to and fro;
    He bustles about but only in vain
    He heaps up wealth not knowing who will get it.
    But now, Lord, what do I look for.
    My hope is in you."

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