Accepting an invitation is a funny thing. Especially when that invitation leads you to a place that is intimidating amongst other females of whom you feel inferior.
Rewind 7 months. Between bites of noodles and marinara, Niki put it out there. “Beth, I believe God wants me to invite you to run a half marathon with me.” Cue the waterworks. I couldn't help it, so I let the tears flow, knowing they represented so many things - deep insecurities that I wasn't a good enough runner compared to Niki (or anyone else for that matter) and my past failed attempts at running any distance, to name a few. But at the same time, I knew it was Jesus extending an invitation to me through Niki, wrapped-up in a spaghetti dinner conversation. He had been prompting me to run for the past several weeks, and now I knew why. Honestly, I had always wanted to be a runner. But as of that moment, I was the girl standing outside the gate peering through the self-constructed bars, wishing I could be like the cool kids.
With all that hot mess inside my heart and mind, I somehow found myself shaking my head with an affirmative, “Ok. I’ll do it.”
The following six months were interesting, to say the least. So many doubts filled my mind. What am I doing? Who am I? What if I fail AGAIN? What do I even wear to a race? What if I can’t keep up? What if I’m a complete and total inconvenience to all the other fast runners in the group? What will I look like compared to them? It was an all-out-Rambo-style assault on my mind and emotions. As a thirty-something, I don’t think I felt that insecure since my who-am-I, dread-lock-attempting college days. (The dreads lasted a week. Too much work and a terrible look for me.) The enemy had a field day with me. Throughout my training, even up until the night before the race, I struggled to keep my mental game afloat. But I just. kept. going. Looking back, I think two truths carried me to the finish line.
First, I had been invited to run my race set before me.
I had been invited to endure, to put one foot in front of the other, not perfectly or better than anyone else. And if I had been invited, by definition, that meant there was a Host--- a Host who tells me I can do all things in Him. A Host who bends down low and inclines His ear to me. A Host who is acquainted with my grief. A Host who reminds me He is faithful to finish what He started. A Host worthy of my presence and best.
Second, I knew I wouldn’t go alone.
Niki, who quite literally could run circles around and miles ahead of me, stayed my pace. She talked to me when I felt like I couldn’t breathe. She reminded me I was created to run. She sent me articles, gave me tips, and promised me she would stay right beside me the entire race. And that she did. As we crossed the finish line, the waterworks once again took over, and as I gasped for air, I could not hug Niki fast enough. To be carried to the finish by Jesus himself and to share it with someone who was a catalyst in my multi-faceted victory? There are no words.
Many of us find ourselves presented with an invitation to a not-so-different endeavor.....
You say “women’s conference” and it’s like somebody just yelled “FIRE!” (Hot flashes, dreadful flashbacks, sweaty palms, frantically searching for an exit… You know the drill.) We hear the invitation, but invitations are a funny thing, right? Insecurities to the max, intimidation galore. The “what if’s” plague our minds, as well, so we can't see a single thing past the worry. What if I have to sit by myself? What will I wear? What if this is another failed attempt at relationships? What if , what if, what if.
But the truth is, you’ve been invited. You have the Perfect Host, and you won’t go alone. I can’t promise you women’s conference will fix all your problems. But what if you have a life changing encounter with said Perfect Host who has every answer to your every problem? What if you have more fun than you thought you would? What if this is not the end of your story? What if you meet your next best friend? What if you stick it to the enemy, not by doing it perfectly, but by simply accepting the invitation to go? What if it's not about me, and but about us, and I get to join in on the very unity for which Jesus beseeched the Father? All because you accepted an invitation.
So who are you...are you me? I've been invited to We Are One, but the "what if's" have got the best of me. Are you Niki? We Are One is my jam, and it’s time to extend a hand to a sister who's never tasted that victory.
Niki kept telling me, "Picture yourself crossing that finish line. It'll be worth it. It'll be worth it." And every time she said it, I thought, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can't feel my legs." Later she texted, "Sometimes it's just hard to believe that the finish line is worth it." I had a hard time believing because I'd never tasted that sweet victory. But Niki had. She knew it was worth it. Some of our sisters need to know it's worth it. Jesus. Perseverance. Struggle. Victory is always worth it.
You know, Niki and I are not best friends, but I’ll tell ya something true. I’d take a bullet for that girl. Why? Because she reached back and helped a sister out. She sacrificed her time, energy and her personal record to help me win. She knew the victories and joy that lay ahead, and she saw fit to bring me along. She could have literally left me in the dust, but instead she knelt down to lift me up. To be loved in your strength is one thing. To be invited and loved in your weakness? Game changer.
Reminds me of Someone else we know.
"Because He bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath." Psalm 116:2
This week, let’s all be the girl who looks back, grabs a hand, and silences the “what if’s” by allowing ourselves to be swept away by our Perfect Host.
I’ll see you at We Are One.
Until then, come say hello at the Events Desk and grab a stack of invites to hand out to those lovely friends of yours. 7 days and counting! #TFCWeAreOne