I have this wonderful sister Ankia Clidaris, whose stories I have shared before in Grasshopper, no more! She keeps challenging me and calling me up higher and she recently shared yet another testimony with our group of friends that struck a note in our hearts. I could not resist but ask if I could share it with you. Ankia writes…
I was privilege enough to attend a conference in the last moth where the speaker shares the story of Jesus walking on water and it, really got me thinking.
The disciples have to cross the lake to go to Bethsaida (John 6:16-21) but when they reach the middle of the lake, all hell breaks loose. They encounter a storm. They find themselves STRAINING at the Oar and turning back looks like a possibility.
The speaker mentioned that when we start our walk with Jesus – it’s all exciting and easy-going. Unfortunately after a while we find ourselves in the middle where the enemy knows we are; he also knows that if he can discourage us, we will give up and turn back.
What is the oar you’re straining at? Is it your marriage, unemployment, a child with a disability or a difficult relationship? The enemy knows that Jesus has called you to move forward to the next destination in your life, but in the middle you find yourself in the storms of life and while you’re straining at the oar, your thoughts are consumed with giving up, turning back. After all, Jesus is not even in the boat with you.
A few weeks ago we went cycling. Now you all know me and it is very clearly visible that I am not a sporty person. Yet, God challenged me to use what I have in my hand to obtain my goals of losing weight and getting fit. Hence…the cycling.
On this Saturday, it was hell. I really struggled more than usual and the sun was beating down on me and instead of loving the beautiful sunny day, I found myself getting more and more discouraged. I prayed frantically for God to help me up the next hill. The more I prayed, the less I felt God’s presence and the more frustrated I got. My thoughts quickly spiralled out of control and eventually I gave up and turned around. “Oh well”, I told myself. “God wasn’t helping me anyway.”
My failure tasted bitter in my mouth. I felt sick, had sun stroke and all I could think was how pathetic I was. How I always fail at what I do and how God is never there to help me. Blah, blah, blah.
The next day we went swimming with friends. My thoughts were that this was yet another crazy idea of mine to swim Midmar again. I have not been in the water for over 2 YEARS!!! I had utterly failed the previous day and now I was going to attempt another no-win situation. I was not surprised when I nearly passed out after the first length. I had set a goal of swimming 5 lengths that day. Unfortunately, I had no forward thinking skill, because the 5th length brought me to the wrong side of the pool. I had to swim one more to get to my towel.
I decided to do one more after that and one more. Eventually I felt fine and decided to swim two lengths before stopping to rest and then 5 and before I knew it I have completed 1.2km (60 lengths).
Yip, I am just as stunned as you are!
I was feeling great, successful and motivated. I realised that swimming comes naturally to me. Previously, I had spent 3 years training Monday to Friday. I had a personal coach. Not just any coach but an ex Springbok swimmer. I had two friends that trained for the iron man and they kept on pushing me to move my limits and to ‘show up’ every day. Without realising it, the daily training had became a discipline. Even after 2 years of no training, I could fall back on that discipline and push myself beyond my own imagined limits because I was used to doing it. I had learned to do it for 3 years.
Cycling is new. It’s difficult and it does not come naturally. It is unfamiliar and therefore I am not able to see God in the process.
When we are trying to learn new skills, setting goals and strategies for everyday living comes easily to some people. They have disciplines in place and coping mechanisms and are able to design 5 point strategies to overcome anything the enemy throws at them.
When God called me to step up higher and push my boundaries to learn this new skill. I immediately felt intimidated, unable and threatened by what I was supposed to learn. I felt like a failure and totally failed to see God in the training process. I realise now that this is the middle for me. This is the part where I’m straining at the oar. I have to stretch beyond myself. Force myself not to give up or turn back. Moving forward one step at a time.
What if the storms of life really hit you hard this year and you’re starting to realise that you’re in the middle where there is the perception of no forward movement? You’re just too TIRED to take one more step.
My dear Sister and friend, whatever oar you’re straining at today, my prayer is that you will understand the lesson/skills you’re supposed to learn. That you will not give up. That you will not turn back. That you will realise you can just call out to Jesus because the word in John 6:21 (NLT) states:
“ Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and IMMEDIATELY they arrived at their destination!”