By Dylan Hendricks
It was a brisk fall day and I was in the midst of a cross country race. If you know me, you know that running competitively is pretty much my favorite thing to do. This day was different though, as I could feel the collective work of several hundreds of miles building up in my legs as my lungs began to scream for air, fatigue culminating to levels my body was struggling to tolerate. Then, nothing.
The next thing I knew, I was lying off to the side of the course, my head pounding, vision blurry, and lungs still working hard to take in air as I heard the pounding of the footsteps of the many runners on the course. I had never passed out during a run before and the realization that I had done so left me feeling broken and confused. I had thought for a long time that competitive running was one of the gifts given to me by God, which I was meant to return in the form of giving glory to Him. As I sat there next to the course, one question swirled in my head and wouldn’t go away.
If my purpose is to glorify you through running, God, why would you allow this to happen?
The next thing I knew, my coaches and teammates who had finished the race were flooding across the course, coming to my aid. One by one, as they reached my location, they comforted me as I tried to apologize for my inability to finish the race. As they walked with me back to our team’s camp, a surprising feeling came over me without warning – peace. The peace I felt then would stick with me over the coming days, but as I later thought back to that day, that feeling faded, becoming replaced by doubt.
Since the start of my college years, I have felt an almost equally strong calling toward a career in the medical field. Though my coursework has been rigorous since my freshman year, I had always been able to manage that work well and – for the most part – receive the grades I had aimed for. But the first semester of my junior year was the most challenging combination of courses that I had taken, and the stress induced by these courses eventually grew to a breaking point. Low on time, sleep, and energy, my grades began to suffer, and along with them, my mental fortitude. With the addition of the mental defeat that I faced after my most significant setback in my running career, I felt my very purpose was at risk and began to question if I was truly called to continue running and pursuing medicine. I turned my questions in God’s direction once again.
God, if you call me to serve my neighbor through medical care, why would you allow this to happen?
On the night that I felt most stressed and seriously wondered about the path that I was on, I took a break from studying and opened Twitter – an action that normally would have been a mistake because of the large presence of negative, often politically-charged posts that appear on the social media platform. However, the first two posts that showed up for me were instead centered on Bible verses.
- “It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.” (Proverbs 20:3)
- “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1)
Perhaps the strife and quarrel that the first verse mentions do not necessarily come from an external source, but rather can come from an inner source. I realized in this moment that I was the fool quarreling with my own self, choosing to create strife with the part of me that knows the purpose I have been called towards. Instead of choosing peace, as I had felt that day of the race as my teammates comforted me, I had chosen conflict with myself. The second verse affirmed this for me, as in my state of internal conflict, my unrest kept me from believing that God had heard my anguish until now. In fact, choosing peace for me was not about actively creating peace that was my own, but rather asking God to instill His peace in me, which required me to believe that God was listening as I suffered and was doing something about it.
God was calling me towards something new – but that didn’t mean that he was directing me away from running or my career plans. I believe that He still calls me towards the same purpose, but via a different route, which is that of peace and patience. I think we often look far into the future, seeing the completion of our purpose as the thing that will finally allow us to glorify God as he has called us to do. But I think it is in the journey to completing that purpose where we often encounter those most in need of God’s love and wisdom, and though we would not like to admit it, this often includes ourselves. If we do not seek to bring glory to God throughout our pursuit of purpose by demonstrating peace and patience, we sacrifice much of the good we could do in exchange for an end result that may or may not come to fruition. To put this into common phrasing I wonder: “Do the ends justify the means?” Should we run towards our perceived spiritual purposes without regard for how we embody the imago dei each day in order to accomplish our purposes? Alternatively, I believe we can decide to pursue purpose, but also while continually asking God to instill His peace and patience in us, giving us the ability to be more intentional in our daily actions.
Though I nearly lost hold of the purpose that I believe I have been called to, I now believe that God heard my cry, helping me to rediscover that purpose through the lenses of peace and patience.