This may be the longest post I've ever blogged. Read on if you wish. This is the back story leading up to me purchasing new inline skates.
First, The Foundation
My passion for inline skating is growing with each mile I tick off on my "blades". In each of the last two years I've skated the St. Paul Inline Marathon - last year finishing pretty strong in the open class with a time of 1:46. One of the reasons I love inline skating is for the challenge(s) I always find before me. This year, to continue to push for my personal best, I will skate two marathons, St. Paul and Hayward (WI). For most people Inline Skating makes no sense, and to some I am affectionately referred to as "skater boy". No problem, you're all just misinformed. All that to say then, for the time being, inline skating is my thing. I want to see how far I can go with it. If I can't be passionate about it and act as if (I'm a pro) then why do it?
I am passionate about something else much more magnificent than the joy of inline skating. I care more about Another than the physical accomplishment of rolling over 26.2 miles. Let me put it this way, I want to glorify God with my life more than I want to breathe. This is a growing passion. I care more about the reign of Christ in all of life over all the earth for His glory more than I care about skating. I want to see and personally affect the advancement of God's kingdom with my life. I try to pursue Christ's reign in my life but I do it imperfectly and it is only by grace alone that I even come close. I am a sinner through and through sustained daily by God's sovereign control over everything. I've been convicted and I've shifted my affections toward eternal ends and God's glory. This is not just religious speak and God talk, I really sincerely believe Jesus Christ is King of my life today and certainly of all peoples, past, present, future and it will be this way for eternity.
What does this post now have to do with inline skating? Everything! Start from the beginning if you have to but here is the just of it - God is glorified when inline skating (and everything related to it) is treated as gift from Him and not an idol. I skate because it brings me great joy but it is not primary in my life - that is what makes it so much fun!!! I am free! I am free to pursue excellence in inline skating because my heart is clean of the sinful desire to compete and skate so that I feel better about myself or so that others think better of me. I am free indeed!
The Backstory Leading Up To The New Skates
The day before receiving the $150 anonymous gift I had quite the internal battle going on in my heart. I spent most of the early part of the day dreaming of new skates. Don't forget, this was the day before the gift. As the day went on my heart slide further into covetousness, jealousy and a no-holds-barred selfish poor me attitude. I really wanted new skates and believed by the end of the day there really was no point in training and doing my best because my current skates where not good enough.
In days past I would have purchased the skates on a stop after work before going home. Without regard to the consequences I would have wrote a check, took money from the cash machine, or threw the credit card out for a swipe. Problem solved, desire met.
I got over those days though. I turned to having more outside control of my spending sprees driven by my own greed to waiting until my wife said it was ok to buy the skates. But, you see, she waited as long as she could, or let me say, she endured my childish pouting as long as she could. For a while I became good at manipulating her to get what I wanted and spending what I wanted on the things only I could benefit from.
At this point I suspect there are some reading that see this story merely as a case of a severely immature person who needs to grow up and stop being so selfish. That is what I used to think of myself as well. I believed all I needed to do was "stop it" and change my behavior. I could do it myself.
On the day before I received the anonymous gift the temptation to go home and "discuss" my "need" for new skates with my wife was very strong. But there was another competing desire I recognized as the day went on - to love my wife, provide for my family, and glorify God. This desire, to glorify God, was not new that day, obviously, but rather what I noticed was that it was very strong and offered more promise than all other things in my life at the moment. To say it another way, I preach how I want to glorify God with my life and at that moment I sensed I had a real opportunity to honor God by not saying anything to my wife. I also sensed how hard that was going to be for the evening. At that moment I gave up my dream of new skates. I gave up the desire. I know this may sound really crazy, but in my heart I surrendered my control over the whole situation. Usually people do this kind of surrendering when addicted to drugs (been there) or while undergoing great troubles in life (been there too) but I was doing it about a pair of inline skates. No, not really, I was doing it with an idol of my heart. That idol was lust - lust for what I wanted and had to have.
Compared to lust, I recognized how much I loved my wife and I saw a real everyday opportunity to glorify God by responding in faith. What did I have faith in? That God would provide? No. I had faith in the goodness of God. I had faith that God is who He is and I am his creature. That's it. Glorifying him by loving my wife by not saying anything to her was what I really wanted to do more than anything else.
Remember, this happened the day before the gift. I find it amazing that at the same time God was also, most likely, preparing the heart of the giver of the anonymous gift. God, bless that person, I pray!
What is so significant about the gift is not that I got new skates, it is the praise my heart lifted up to God as soon as I realized what was going on. You see, the meaning and purpose of the whole previous day became clear the instant I understood the gift. I had nothing to do with it. I followed no formula for success. I did nothing. I did not name it and claim it so to speak. I didn't obligate God to come through for me. This was a pure all out gift from God! What makes the gift great is the connection it has to the events of the previous day. I will always skate in my new skates with this meaning in mind - those skates are special to say the least!!
Here is another perspective of this whole thing that grips me. I've always struggled with money. Never having enough. Bad decisions. Four children (they are not bad decisions!) That morning during the brief walk from my car to the house I thought about using the $150 to pay down some of the bills I have outstanding. Dentist, doctor, clothing, taxes. No doubt, I knew my wife would agree - it is more responsible to pay down those bills. But we talked, and I did not manipulate. We both had to answer the questions. Why would God allow me to get skates while we had so many other bills to pay? Why didn't we get a gift that said "Get your daughter's teeth fixed.", or "You and Carla have worn that same summer clothes for the last three years, it is time to upgrade!"? Why would he give me something I want instead of something I need. We concluded, in providence, God worked in the giver's heart to give me money for new skates. Now, my want of getting new skates became a need to get new skates because God is glorified by it all! He made everything happen in his perfect timing and by his perfect plan of love.
You may not understand. You may think I am super-spiritualizing this. I am not. This gift has changed my life. I still don't think this blog post does justice to what really went on in my heart, but I tried. This gift and what lead up to it displays the reality of God's hand in my life and the miracle is - I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT! This gift is but a reflection of the ultimate gift of Christ's death on a cross and the eternal hope that is found in His life as the resurrected Son of God!