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In which I had the chance to do something amazing – and I didn’t

A few months ago, Tina (@teenbug) announced a big, hairy, audacious goal over at SheLoves Magazine. She, a self-proclaimed non-runner and lover of butter, was going to run a race to benefit Living Hope, an organization that pays for reconstructive surgeries for women whose faces had been mutilated or cut off in civil war torn Africa. Eventually, it grew to a full half-marathon with nearly 40 local women (and Josh) of all backgrounds running for their sisters.

When Tina announced the half-marathon for Living Hope, some small, still part of my heart said, “You need to do that. You need to learn to run, you need to do this, there is something that God has here for you, too, in this.”

But I did not do it.

The race was a month or so ago. I cheered them on from my house on race day via Twitter, I publicly encouraged people to donate to their run, I donated money, I celebrated their bravery, their guts and this amazing story of connection between regular women doing something brave and strong with their sisters in Africa also doing something brave and strong. They raised over $43,000(!!!) and I wept with joy for their accomplishments, particularly young Tina who lead this undertaking with arms wide open, and for the women in Africa directly impacted by their guts.

Tina Francis, completing the She Loves Half-Marathon

But me? I did not do what I felt God asked me to do.

I had a long list of reasons. I am busy with all the tinies, the house, the homeschooling, the nursing babe, family, friends, life. I am tired. I am the most out-of-shape I’ve ever been in my life. And even if I was in shape, darling, I have never been a runner. When I played fastpitch softball, I was clean-up hitter just because I had to hit that ball over the fence for the half-chance of making it to second base. I was that slow and awkward. I am even more slow and awkward now.

So even though I felt that nudge, the one I’ve come to recognise as the Holy Spirit announcing something new, inviting me into a place of sacred learning by stepping out of a boat right onto water, I said, “I can’t” to that Voice and so I didn’t do it.

It has bugged me ever since. Not in an “up all night crying” kind of way but just that little thorn, a paper cut, that sliver that keeps poking and pricking and bothering.

I had a chance to be a part of something really amazing, to tell a very cool story of love and sweat and work, and I said no.

So much of life is like that, isn’t it? We feel a nudge, an invitation, a passion, a burning, a bothering. I once heard that if you want to know where you’re called, take an honest look at what makes you angry. If something makes you angry – an injustice, in particular – that is as good as an engraved invitation to do something about it. And oh, I admit it, sometimes I’m so angry about womens’ issues (in the church and the world) that I want to burn down the Internet for every lie told to keep women down, to placate and patronize and neuter the strong voices of women, for every injustice done to our sisters and our own selves from the daily mundane lies to the violent abuses.

I feel like I have enough righteous anger for my sisters world-over that I could run that damn half-marathon today on passion alone.

But we all have a long list of reasons for not stepping out, speaking out, writing it out, singing it out, running it out, confronting, praying, laying on hands, working it out, being bold and courageous. It’s risky. I might fail. People may not like me. I may irritate people. I might be called names or receive a bit more nasty email. (People don’t like it when someone else gets out of the boat, do they?)

It’s easier to stay home and write tweets celebrating the ones actually doing something. And even though I want to live boldly, speak truthfully, love madly, work for justice, sometimes when I hear the Voice, the invitation, I shrug, “Meh – I’m tired” and I’ll just cheer on the women and men actually doing something instead and convince myself that it’s enough.

I have no idea what to do with this. It scares me to press publish.

It’s not about the running (I couldn’t run down the block today if I tried). It’s more about the lie that I believe still: I can’t do it, that I am not strong enough, my voice does not matter, the little work I can do won’t count for much. It’s about being a part of something bigger than myself and working for justice, making space for God, while defeating a core lie that I still, somehow, believe about myself and, perhaps, women.

It makes me a bit mad, to be honest. I feel ripped off.
I feel a holy discomfort.
I feel like I had a chance to do something amazing, bigger than my own abilities and I missed it.
It makes me want to pay more attention to the call to “Get out of the boat.
I want to walk – or run – on water.

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faith, women
  • http://prairiejuan.wordpress.com/ Juanita

    Wow~ so profound. You hit it bang on and I’m so glad you hit “publish”.  Just that one act of humility alone has convicted me of all of the times I did not “publish” for fear of backlash or someone else’s opinion mattering more to me than God’s opinion of me.  You’re not alone~ I hear you loud and clear and I’m right there with you. I have often said “meh”….over and over again. Excuse after excuse and really, why? Because I feel like it’s all too big for me and I feel so ill prepared for any of it.  And I don’t really know what to do with it other than out myself and talk about it and try again the next time I feel that poke.  

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      You and me, both, Juanita. Thank you for grace.

  • http://www.kendradueck.wordpress.com Kendra

    Oh, I can relate to this. I’ve past up on really amazing opportunities before, too, and then afterwards can’t believe I didn’t listen to that little voice. I guess the good part is that the next time an opportunity comes again, I am good and ready to answer with a hearty “Yes!!”

    • http://www.sarahbessey.com/ Sarah Bessey

      Yes. The discomfort is hopefully enough to push me to a “yes” next time. Or this time. 

  • http://www.edcyzewski.com/ Ed_Cyzewski

    I hear you. Thank you for sharing. I think we’ve all been in a similar spot, and it doesn’t feel good. Thanks for putting it into words so wonderfully.

    I have those moments around town when I wonder if I should ask someone if he needs a hand, but then I’ll tell myself that he looks a little crazy and I’m a small guy with no muscle mass… Ah, fear is a tough one. There are so many reasons to not help. It’s hard to know sometimes when I’ve hit on a legit reason to back off and when I need to just jump in with both feet. I’m grateful for my church community because they have provided ways we can serve in our community, and in that way, I’ve found it a little easier to not talk myself out of doing stuff. Still, I hear that nagging voice in the back of my mind that I’m too busy for such charity work…

  • http://www.thebattersonsofnc.blogspot.com A. Batterson

    I totally get it.  Love the honesty you write and share!

  • Mme Zalopha

    Ah, Sarah, I don’t think you can truly say “I did not do what I felt God asked my to do.” I think you can only say “I have not yet done what God has asked me to do.” You often speak so eloquently here about the longing-filled void between what is here and now and that which will be. I believe this is no different.

    I have lost count of how many half-marathons I have run. I know it is at least six, more likely eight. Assuming you don’t have wrecked knees, bad ankles, a heart condition or uncontrollable asthma, you can run a half marathon. (And if you do, it still may be possible.) I also think that it was wise not to train for your very first half marathon while the momma of a still-quite-little baby.

    If you want this, it is yours. The work you did to support your friends and make their cause yours is invaluable. They will remember it when it is your turn. I would be happy to answer any questions you have about how to start and continue towards this goal.

    Your having written this today is a gift for me. I lost my running mojo after completing the half in Eugene this May. I have been floundering since then. Having been prompted to remember that first half marathon and all that  I love about distance running has made me feel ready to start up again.

  • http://www.idelette.com idelette

    I feel ripped off too!!!! I would have *loved* to run/walk/crawl with you … 

    Sidenote: Amazing what silences and diminishes us. Argggggh.

    But I do believe this: You won’t be NOT getting out of the boat next time. 

    Looking forward to running on water with you. #headspinning

    Love you. Love love love you. 

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    i had that internal dialouge myself about doing the 3-day walk for the cure….60 miles, 3 days…wah. and  you know what? its not the distance. (i’ve done 3 half marathons, even though like you I am not a runner…i walked, jogged, drug my family along and they were just amazing) but for this one, its raising the money because I feel uncomfortable asking for people to give.  Thank you for reminding me that it’s the spirit i feel nudging me…. as for you; i think that this has prepared your heart in ways you would not have been able to receive when you do step of that boat (because you will).

  • http://www.tararobinson.com/ Tara Rodden Robinson

    Beautiful post, Sarah! I am so grateful that you shared this with us. It’s challenging to sit with that “holy discomfort,” but so rewarding!

    With love,
    Tara

  • http://www.dietcokeontherocks.com robin

    so glad you hit publish, too. This is an amazingly honest piece, and brings out the truth in my heart. Why is it so hard to trust in Him 100%? I don’t know. I guess if we knew, we wouldn’t be sitting there feeling the paper cuts.

  • http://www.clairejdeboer.com Claire De Boer

    Thanks for sharing Sarah. I kinda felt the same way too – didn’t realize how BIG it was – thought I didn’t have time. But I really should have made time. Love your honesty with this :-)

  • http://www.twitter.com/teenbug Tina Francis/ @teenbug

    Sarah, thank you for telling this story. We ALL relate.

    Yes, this ONE time, I actually said “yes”. But it was a result of years of saying, “I’m busy, broke or unqualified.”

    Bad bfs. Bad bosses. Bad grades. Bad economy. You name it … I blamed it.

    For years… they stole my voice … my strength … they stole my chutzpah.  They poked, pointed and ridiculed.

    Eventually… “the holy discomfort” got so big that I plugged my fingers in my ears and started screaming, “Lalalala…I can’t hear you.”

    I made a mad splashy awkward dash out of the boat. Somehow, it materialized into 21 kms and $43,000. I’m a little blurry on how that part came together.

    Discomfort, frustration and “feeling a bit mad”…. is good.

    “Once upon a time…there was a frustrated little girl named Tina who lost her moxie….” #itsonlythebeginning

    Hugs, sweet friend.

    xoxo,
    Teen

  • rayhollenbach

    Your post places you firmly in the family of God. Choosing *not* to do something is so a part of our human experience that The Book of Common Prayer teaches us to confess regularly, “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.” Repentance and confession are the first steps in the half-marathon of life with God. Peace to you!

  • Meg

    Love your authenticity and honesty here. Totally relatable. But I agree with one of your commenters: you were wise not to run, regardless of your motives. Speaking in pure running language, it’s best to build up a base before tackling such a challenging run. And especially if you’re a nursing mum! I had to give up running altogether while nursing in order to adequately nourish my baby. Anyway, in spirit, you were running alongside those women. That truly counts for something!

  • http://perichoreticlife.blogspot.com/ Michael Thompson

    I hear you and have my own stories of personal frustration…but this is something you could still find an opportunity to do…(-:

  • http://www.prestonyancey.com/ Preston Yancey

    Goodness, friend. I’m all soul-puddle and ached “yes” after reading this. Thank you.

  • http://coolquotesandstuff.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth

    We can all make excuses. 

    Up until about 18 months ago I was a non-runner most definitely.  I couldn’t run down the road a tiny way.  I took it up as part of the regular exercise I had started 6 months before.  I have asthma that has only been diagnosed properly in the past 3 years.  Regular exercise and medication – it is amazing what I have been able to do!!!!

    I would suggest that you look for a small run to start with 5K.  And build up.  

    God is good and He understands.  Sometimes He calls us to do the running and sometimes it is other people’s job to do it.  This time you advertised, prayed and have felt the longing to do more.  Start training now so that the next time you can join them.  

    There will be things in all our lives we have persuaded ourselves that we couldn’t do just now.  But God forgives and provides lots more opportunities.

    Oh, and btw:  We look forward to photos.

  • http://coolquotesandstuff.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth

    Oh, just reread my comment and it isn’t very spiritual.  I think what I was trying to say if this:  If you feel you would like to do it.  Train now and the next time it comes up you have already tackled some of the excuses.  Hope that makes sense.

  • http://www.eloranicole.com/ elora nicole ramirez

    this echoes my heart in so many ways, sarah. you have no idea how profound this vulnerability is for me this morning – how much it serves as a salve to my achiness today.

    kinda makes me wonder if there’s something here. kinda makes me wonder if we need to join together and tackle that half-marathon ourselves because i, too, have said no. 

  • http://www.joyinthisjourney.com Joy Bennett

    I don’t know what to do with that either. But I’ve had that same sense of a sliver in my skin when I’ve ignored those tiny nudges. All I know is to pray that God would tune my ears to His voice better and push me harder. But I pray that fearfully. Oh so fearfully.

  • Leah

    To me that holy discomfort is always saying “You didn’t think *you* could do this, (but perhaps that is the point), because I need G-d to do this.  We have all been there – God asks us to do hard, scary things but if we say yes they are always beautiful and strong.

  • another Sarah

    I think this is called life. We do stuff and sometimes it isn’t the right stuff. And we hurt and learn. Thank you for sharing this. It calls to mind the times I’ve let the excuses win the game. Each time I’ve failed to do that which I knew I should have done, I’ve learned (well, I hope I’ve learned and have not heaped another shovelfull of self-condemation upon myself, which might well have been the case when learning from the experience would have been been sufficient.)  Obviously I’m still trying to work this out. 

    Thank you for sharing from your heart. You are an encouragement to this mama in Montana.

  • http://bethanybassett.com/ Bethany Bassett

    I know this feeling so well too, only it’s not usually so much “Meh – I’m tired” as it is “GOOD LORD AM I EVER TIRED!!!” (Other popular reasons: I’m broke, I have no time, I have no energy, I don’t have anything together, I’m already overcommited, and I have two small children = enough said.) I’m so glad you had the guts to post this though, and I think it will be pretty neat to see how your courageous look at a missed opportunity will inspire all of us to hold that “no” next time we feel the nudge. (Though, if God asks me to run a half-marathon, it might take a few Irish coffees before I’m ready to say yes…)

  • Rachel Heath

    I think we’ve all had that feeling of regret when we realize we missed a big opportunity, not by accident, but by choice.  What a horrible feeling.  The best I can say is that it can be great motivation the next time the Holy Spirit whispers to your spirit, “this is for you.”

  • http://twitter.com/howbeautiful Charlotte

    I just want to add a hearty “Amen” to this, especially as someone who’s wrestling with some holy discomfort right now.

  • Laura W

    I’m just on tiny #1 and this mothering gig is exhausting.  I’m with you when you say that it’s easy to leave things undone, even if it can be sinful.  This post is an encouragement to me to listen to the still small voice for things that can breathe life into my tired soul. :)

  • Guest

    I can completely relate to you. Oftentimes, I’m frightened to do what God calls me to do—even though I know that He’ll take care of me! I feel powerless in the face of so much suffering, to borrow from Margaret Hale. Yet, I know that we can’t transform the world for Christ without getting out of the boat—simply taking the first step.

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve just discovered this blog, and I do believe that I’ll return to it often. (:

  • http://www.runwiththebiggirls.com/ Julie Shreve

    God is good about giving second chances.  I have a feeling you won’t excuse yourself next time.

    I June I decided to start running.  In September I ran a 5K.  Next April I’ll be running in a half marathon in Nashville.  I’m trying to figure out which ministries I want to raise support through the training, but in reality it’s for me.  I have to do this.  In a weird way it feels like if I can do this, I can do anything.  

    I’m blogging my way through the training and discouragements and victories.  I’m hoping in some small way to make people smile and maybe even motivated to join me.  I’m having fun with it at least.  And, yes, after backing out so many times on some pretty incredible opportunities, I’m taking this one and I’m running with it. ;)  

    It’s http://runwiththebiggirls.com/ if you’re interested.

    **And by the way I feel bad for this being my first comment and me plugging my own blog, but believe me when I say I’m here reading all the time!  :)

  • Amanda Strate

    Unfortunately this feeling is all to familiar to me but I love that this woman had the courage to say it out loud. BUT the amazing, wonderful, beautiful thing about God is that He is also a God of second chances (and 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc…) He always provides an opporunity for repentence and redemption!

  • emeraldgems

    Sarah,

    Your honest and humility always are encouraging to me. I have been where you are, I have heard the Spirit calling clearly, and said “not this time”, and “I’m tired”, and “someone else will do it”. I am still not very good at listening to the Spirit’s invitations and sometimes I just choose not to hear because the invitation scares me a little. Praise God that the invitations never stop. As long as we live God never stops inviting us to come and join Him in the work of the Kingdom.

    FedEx,
    President,
    Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry