With faces splattered with mud, shoes weighed down with layers of brown soil, and hearts pumping wildly, the cross country runners at the Chili Pepper Festival pressed on through the rain. Their breath was audible as they thundered around the bend. My son Grant was in the pack, and my heart ached for him as he neared what we had started to call the “pit.”
In conditions like these, low spots in the terrain were like quick sand and an ice rink combined. Sliding and sinking, runner after runner fell down and out of the race. I began praying that Grant would slow down and tread carefully through the trap. My voice called out a cry not often heard during a race: “Slow down!”
However, it was not my instruction that got him past this pit, but the voice of Coach Riden who prepared his runners for this moment. Day after day he called out one line of instruction to his runners. Day after day the racers learned to echo that same encouragement to one another on the trail. It is the same instruction I offer to you as a fellow mother watching your child potentially slip and fall in some way—spiritually, physically, or emotionally. Hear the cry of coach Riden: “Eyes up!” “Eyes up!”
Grant explained to me that when a tired runner starts looking down at the ground in front of them, they have a tendency to slow down, and their posture keeps them from noticing upcoming obstacles or focusing on the finish line. As Grant rounded the corner that rainy day, his eyes were up. As a result he could see the trap ahead of him, one that he would have failed to see if he was only focusing on the ground just one step before him. He deftly stepped around the fallen runners and pressed on with his eyes up.
As a mother on the sidelines, I call out to you as a fellow teammate in this parenting race, “Eyes up!” The circumstances before you may seem like a slippery pit leading to loss and despair. The mud on your face may come from the shoes of someone else running the race of life with you. The choices of people around you may cause you to stumble at times as you run the race, but we call out to one another to listen to the voice of the Father, our greatest life coach.
Yes, we will yell at our kids. Yes, we will blow it as mothers. We will be tempted to just sit in the mud and give up in our guilt. Or we might be tempted to blame, shame, or judge the people around us. However, we do not have to take the low posture that causes more stumbling. With one small change in direction of one small body part, turning our eyes to the Father and His instruction, our pace and posture changes.
God the Father, through the sacrifice of his Son and the empowerment of his Spirit, gives us everything we need to get through the problems of living on this earth. His voice does not shame, it instructs. It does not blame, it guides. His voice sends out great love with instruction. Our voice will soon echo what we hear from heaven to our children running the life race beside us.
We cannot run this race for our children. They will eventually take off on their own trail. But we can place this instruction in their hands and heads through the Word of God. Then when the rain comes, may we all automatically turn our trained eyes up.
Psalm 121:1–8 (ESV)
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
Philippians 3:12–14 (ESV)
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus