Step back in time with me momentarily and imagine the halls of a high school. You don’t need to think of the raging hormones, the uber-smart kids, or the ones who are barely hanging in there. Nope. Imagine just the hallways, the very ones walked by hundreds of students a day, students, mind you, that have grabbed food from lockers and vending machines.
Can you see the floors? There are a few papers littered here and there. A red gummy bear lying near a locker. Skittles wrappers discarded like an unwanted Valentine (and when I say discarded, I mean high school-style: lying in the middle of the hallway).
Now, insert a different image into that same hallway: a drug-sniffing dog. Yes, my friends, welcome to America. These dogs are highly trained to smell something amiss. They are on a mission, undeterred. They trek the hallways, passing said gummy bear and even leaving the half-eaten Snickers in its place.
Contrast that to my black lab, my 80-pound furry friend that will eat anything she can find. Just last night I had to wrestle a fully wrapped Hershey’s kiss out of her mouth. My Bella-girl loves broccoli, apples, and sweet potatoes (notice they’re all healthy? Probably because those are the things my kids slip to her during dinner). She’s also been known to pull a fresh-baked loaf of bread off the counter while I’m gone, or fish through trash cans to lick a few crumbs off a small wrapper.
If I brought Bella to a school, she might somewhat do the job of a janitor by licking up the floors, but she would be completely ineffective in finding anything other than food.
So what sets the police dogs apart from my dog? Training, determination and intentionality. Take the big jump with me back to us two-legged creatures, for these qualities equally apply to us as we strive to live in a Christ-honoring way.
K-9s go through rigorous training so they can learn exactly what they’re supposed to be sniffing for while also knowing exactly what not to be focused on. We get to do the same. Hebrews 12:2 tells us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.” That’s our guide as to what to be looking for/ towards. As we train our eyes to look towards Jesus in all things, we become like those dogs in that we learn to overlook the things we aren’t supposed to be gravitating towards.
2) Determination and Intentionality
My nephews do “The Canyon Run” every year as a fundraiser for their wrestling team. 11 miles, all uphill, through Bear Creek Canyon. My sister’s role is to drive through the canyon, alerting other cars to the runners, while picking up strays (and I’m not referring to dogs, either!).
Many start off with great zeal, but not all cross the finish line. Some, like my oldest nephew on his first year of the race, aren’t prepared. Nick wore vans, which are awesome-looking shoes, but have no place in a race of that length. Blisters on top of blisters. Those who are determined to finish have trained and come equipped with proper gear.
Last year, my brother-in-law and two nephews crossed the finish line, tired but exhilarated (okay, the latter came later in the day). They crossed in large part because they stuck it out and stayed on the path. They didn’t bring ropes with them to try climbing the canyon walls, for that would have made them exert more energy on an already strenuous run. They didn’t finish half the race, only to turn around and go back to where they’d started to fetch something they left behind. Trust me. If you saw their exhausted faces, you’d know better than to think anything so ridiculous. They ran straight ahead, with intentionality, towards the finish line. Paul did the same.
Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”1 Corinthians 9: 26 – 27
I know life can throw us some unexpected curves. Trust me, I know. They’ve left me looking for that “canyon car,” desperately hoping someone would pick me up. They’ve also left me running the race similar to the way I look when my kids talk me into playing Mario Cart with them: banging into walls, having U-Turn signs above my head letting me know I’m going in the wrong direction. Again. I have a feeling I’m not alone in that floundering feeling. Nevertheless, we can keep running, focusing our eyes on Him who hangs those U-Turn signs and equips us with the training and directionality we desperately need.
So whether or not you feel like you’re floundering or you currently have a great stride, what things do you do to devote yourself to training, determination and intentionality in your relationship with Christ?