“Hard work is always hard work…”

by Richelle Wright on January 9, 2013

gymnastics_spsl_subdistricts_2009_cp-0743

Photo by Chris Peterson

Many, many years ago, I was a competitive gymnast.

Unlike most of my teammates, I delighted in the challenge of the balance beam.

Dancing, flipping, leaping and tumbling on nothing but a strip of wood wrapped in suede four inches wide, 16 feet long and lifted four feet above the ground exhilarated, thrilled and terrified my heart all at the same time! Ninety seconds of performing with literally palpable spectator suspense pushed me to try and do things I never dreamed possible.

I no longer relish that public balancing act like I did when I was younger.

On the other hand, I don’t see escape looming anywhere in the future. If I want to… or feel called and compelled  to… continue this expat, ministry oriented life my family leads, regardless of where we land, that is one of those things that will remain – the hard work of  seeking to graceFULLy negotiate balanced, obedient lives in very unbalancing worlds and situations.

We recently had a fascinating, thought provoking conversation here  about struggling and whether or not choosing suffering furthers God’s work. The general consensus was that it could, but it wasn’t necessarily necessary. In fact, there are as many good and right possibilities as there are individuals, and each one has to determine what is right, most effective and God’s will for him or her.   One may even find that what “is right” changes for different stages of life or in subsequent seasons of working on the field. My own words in this conversation echoed those thoughts: “I DO think there is a right and a wrong – but [they aren’t] black and white. The right and wrong comes in living obediently to how God specifically directs me, my family, or our team. The fact that it ISN’T black and white comes in recognizing that God doesn’t direct and organize cookie cutter lives, paths or ministries. Each one is as unique as the mix of individuals He brings together to do His work.”

Shortly after writing that, however, I remembered: when the Bible actually speaks of man doing what “is right” in his own eyes, it isn’t typically a good thing. That phrase, or something similar, occurs several times describing a historical period when Israel was ruled by judges. It was a cyclical time of ignoring God and falling away, capture,  captivity and servitude, a calling out for rescue, provision of that rescue, finally followed by re-dedication to whole-heartedly seeking God… until life and ministry resumed, got busy and distracting, and the people once again started disregarding God’s path and plan.

I’ve also found that same grouping of words in Proverbs…

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12.15, ESV)

Another verse?

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21.2, ESV)

There’s a tension that exists between:

  • clear standards to which I’m accountable whether they are good and right according to me. AND
  • still perceiving then obeying God’s specific and unique will for me where I’m living obediently in accordance with personal ideas and convictions.

I must work to balance those two, recognizing and admitting those times when what I think is God’s right plan for me is really nothing more than that which is right in my own eyes.

Like Belarussian gymnast Svetlana Boguinskaya said, “Hard work is always hard work!”

I find myself still trying to dance, flip, leap and tumble away on a very narrow strip. Not physically, of course, but in maintaining a balance by seeking what is right and best and God’s plan for my family and our unique situation without falling into the trap of simply choosing what’s comfortable or expected and then calling it “God’s right plan for me.”

This time the stakes are enormously higher. A slip or a fall no longer results in skinned legs or a turned ankle, some tears, tenths of points deducted from a total score and a missed podium opportunity.

The importance of maintaining that balance while still contending graceFULLy in the myriads of circumstances common to this life could have much larger, longer, even eternally significant, impact.

***************************

How do you find that balance between discerning God’s right plan for you

rather than simply doing what is right in your own eyes? 

– Richelle Wright, missionary in Niger, W. Africa

blog:   Our Wright-ing Pad    ministry:   Wright’s Broadcasting Truth to Niger     facebook:  Richelle Wright

 

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About Richelle Wright

Disciple of Jesus, lover of God's Word, wife to one great guy, and mama of eight, Richelle has spent the past 13 years in Niger, West Africa. She and her family are currently in the throes of transition as they begin life and ministry (teaching, audio-visual production) in the Canadian province of Québec. |ourwrightingpad.blogspot.com|
  • Okay, first I have to ask– is that a photo of YOU?

    So neat that you were a gymnast! I had no idea! You are just full of surprises!

    I love this image of the hard work of the balance beam. I think that discerning God’s will is just so hard. It’s hard to separate your desires from what you feel God leading you to do. I think the default is to hear God through a filter of what we really want anyway, and that can have dangerous consequences– esp when we are talking about moving overseas/working overseas . ..or really just living and interacting with people!

    I think the encouraging thing, though, is that God does not play “cosmic chess” with us. I keep coming back to the idea that if our hearts are really in the right place to follow, even when/if we “hear wrong”, God can still use that and work good.

    But, yes, balance– that seems to be the maturing line we so often walk in so much of life. . . .

    • I wish. 🙂

      But no… I’m old enough that photos from my gymnastics career look quite dated. And while I did do some flipping on the beam – I didn’t do anything nearly THAT big or impressive!

      I, too, am thankful ~ “All around… Hope is springing up from this old ground… Out of chaos life is being found in You.” That song started running through my mind as I read your comment, because He does make beautiful things out of mess ups, mistakes, miscalculations. And in the long run, those are the most beautiful of all because there’s a lot less of me, a lot more of Him and of Him making new those things of me that did show through, if that makes sense.

  • I too was going to ask if that was a picture of you, but I guess now I don’t have to 🙂
    I remember talking to you a few times about your gymnastics past, but it has been around 15 years or so (I think right around the time Rebekah was born). It’s neat that you can still apply that background to your Christian life.

    • 15 years is a pretty good guess – we’ll be celebrating a sweet 16 in just a few months… It is just amazing watching this kids grow and become (at least so far) young people that I really DO like, and not just ’cause they are mine!

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Thanks Laura for asking what we were all wondering! I’m also super impressed, whether or not that was you on the beam. I can barely do a somersault. I have found this quote helpful over the years. It is based on my memory of an evening in his home rather than on a manuscript someplace, so it might not be exact, but John Piper said, in reference to determining God’s will: “Do your holy, deep, recurrent desire.” And then clarified it like this: is what you are looking at doing something pleasing/honoring to God? Is it deep, something you feel passionate about, are gripped by? Is it something you can’t shake, keep returning to over the years, see pop up at ‘random’ moments?…Then in faith and with joy and expectation, go DO it. So, along with other checks and balances of course, that is something I’ve thought over at various cross-roads in life.

    • Floor and beam were my events. Bars? Blech! And while I did ok at vault, there was something about the mentality of running full speed down a runway to throw my body at an object purposefully in the middle of the path never really gelled for me. 😉 That was many moons ago, however… and after 6 years of fairly intense competition, beautiful as it is, I knew I never wanted my girls to head into that particular sport.

      Does that mean you personally know John Piper?

      “…is what you are looking at doing something pleasing/honoring to God? Is it deep, something you feel passionate about, are gripped by? Is it something you can’t shake, keep returning to over the years, see pop up at ‘random’ moments?…Then in faith and with joy and expectation, go DO it.” You put that into words much more clearly than I had it muddled in my mind.

      I guess, though, I do have a similar mental checklist I go through as I try to balance what FEELS right with what I KNOW is right – I also add seeking the advice of wise counselors that I know won’t just say what I want to hear and who generally see things from a very different perspective than I (my husband, actually, is one of those) and I also do ask for specific confirmation through God’s Word.

  • The metaphor is an excellent one! I appreciate your thoughtfulness in tackling the suffering issue with a bit of breadth, especially for a blog post 🙂

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