Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Through Christ Who Strengthens Me...

When I was in the 8th grade, my mom bought me a bracelet from the local Christian book store.  I was always so nervous going in that fragile shop.  I was especially concerned when I had to chase after my two year old Tasmanian brother as he whipped through the displays like a tornado.

On one particular day, after the errands were done and my brother was caged back in his car seat, I let out a deep sigh of relief.  Nothing was broken today.

From the driver’s seat, my mom reached around and pulled out a little white box with a pearly white ribbon and handed it to me.

“I was going to give this to you for your birthday,” Mom said, “but I can’t wait. Go ahead and open it now”.  Mom is never one to keep secrets.

Inside the box, in my 8th grade opinion, was a really cool bracelet.  Engraved in the metal read the encouraging words, “Perseverance – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil 4:13)”.

I was immediately struck by those words as I read them.  Since that day, 4:13 has become my permanent mantra.

Many years later, during the summer Olympics before my sophomore year of high school, I spiritually connected with an American diver, Laura Wilkinson.  During an interview, she told the cameras of her devotion to St. Therese, the Little Flower, and of her favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13.  I followed her events more closely than any of the other athletes.  She was not expected to go far, but she persevered.  I cried when she cried as she sang the National Anthem with the gold medal around her neck.

Many year after that, the bracelet is long gone, but the words are forever etched in my mind.

In my darkest of times, I would repeat 4:13 over and over until peace was restored and calm filled my mind.  In those times, I did not care about the “doing all things” part of the sentence.  I was more relieved by the words “Christ” and “strength”.  At that time, I want to do just one thing – live.

On my road of recovery, Jesus used that verse and helped me grow in stronger and stronger.  I know for a fact that I would not be here today if it had not been for the strength of Christ.

This past October, I achieved a huge personal goal.  I completed a full marathon.

In the months leading up to race day, I fought physical, mental, and emotional difficulties.  Besides the grueling workout regimen, I worked through a foot injury and a knee injury.  For me, my physical injuries were symbolic of my mental and emotion injuries that no one could see.  I was going through some intense internal suffering and I didn’t know how to work past it.  By preserving and working through my marathon training, I was also able to persevere and work through some of my mental sufferings.

The day of the marathon finally arrived, and like most participants, I had pre-race anxiety.  I was dealing with it okay until about five minutes before they fired the canon.  All of a sudden, I had a full blown panic attack.

“What the hell was I thinking?  What am I doing?  There is no way I am going be able to run this race! I willingly agreed to run 26.2 miles?  Not going to happen!”

My head started to spin with all kinds of doubts. My body started shaking uncontrollably.  I started hyperventilating.  People around me looked over with concern.  I got light-headed and began to get tunnel vision.  I thought for sure I would pass out.  I covered my ears, closed my eyes, bowed my head, and begged God for mercy.

“Please God.  Please God.”

I looked up.  Standing right in front of me was a person wearing a t-shirt with the following words, “I can do ALL things through CHRIST who STRENGTHENS me!”

Immediately, a sense of calm rushed over my whole being.  A warm breeze surrounded me and filled my lungs with courage.  A huge smile spread across my whole face.  I was ready to run.  I knew I could do it because Christ was going to give me the strength.

And He did.  I finished the race.

Christ still gives me strength.  And He will continue to give me strength until the end of my days here on earth.

Pray with me now, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)



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