Right about mile 3 I could feel it; I had a made a huge mistake. I was fatigued, sore, hot, and wanting to quit. What was I thinking starting out on a morning run on five hours of sleep without eating breakfast or drinking any water? Without nourishment and rest, I didn’t have what it took to keep my muscles going. I had come to the end of my own energy stores, but still had 2 miles left to finish. As I plodded one foot in front of the other, seriously low on personal gas, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my own exhausted efforts to bear the fruit of goodness in my life and to be a “good” person, mom, and wife.
In Romans 7:18-20 Paul writes about this common dilemma from personal experience, “I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time…”(The Message)
Some days—okay—so maybe a lot of days, I make the same mistake of trying to run the goal of “being good” on my own energy stores. Like Paul, I want to do good, but something gets the better of me. Whether influenced by pride, self-sufficiency, or putting other people and things above Jesus, I often get up and go, not pausing to ask the Holy Spirit to nourish me and give me strength to power through my day. It’s pretty easy to spot me on those days; I have a 3-year old climbing a shelf, a 1-year old eating a crayon, and a deep crease furrowing down the center of my forehead. Naptime can’t come fast enough and everything about me is running on empty!
In Romans 7:24-25 it sounds like Paul knows how I feel, “I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me?…The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”
As moms, wives, sisters, friends, we all have the will to be good and do good—but it can’t be accomplished without Jesus! Exercising goodness, the Fruit of the Spirit that engages all the other fruits into action and demonstrates a model of Christ, is particularly challenging unless we let His spirit be the source of our efforts. A life of virtue, excellence, and service to others will wear us out if we attempt to get up and go without the food and water of Life. Even though our feet hit the ground running when we encourage our kids, support our spouses, volunteer at church, and help our friends, we won’t get far on our own strength.
Infusing us with spiritual energy, Paul encourages us in Romans 8:4-8, “And now what the law code asked for but we couldn’t deliver is accomplished as we, instead of redoubling our own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in us. Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God!”
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit in us gives us everything we need to be and do what God intends. We don’t have to try harder or run faster or do it ourselves, we just have to rely on Him to live and breathe in us. Just reading that gives me a second wind! It causes me to pray, “Father, I’m exhausted trying to be good on my own, I embrace your Holy Spirit. Please come and live and breathe in me. I don’t want to get caught up in trying to do it myself. Help me finish the race you’ve set out for me. I can’t make it another hour chasing my kids and being there for my neighbor without your help.”
In case you were wondering, that morning run did come to an end. It wasn’t pretty, but tomorrow is a new day, and with God’s help, I’m hoping to not repeat my mistake in training and in life.
“So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!” Romans 8:12-14
Running the race,