NO.

A hot tear rolled down my cheek as I worked to straighten my twisted frown and fake a shred of composure. I had told myself I wasn’t going to cry.

I saw a wince dance across Coach Miles’ face as his eyes began to redden, as well. I stared into the watering gaze of a man who saw glimpses of his own daughter in my eyes. A man who recognized there was going to be no easy way to deliver any verdict.

It had been 18 months since the day I felt a stirring in my heart to begin an uphill, unexpected journey.  I wanted my life to matter. Not just in the big-picture, but on a day-to-day basis. I was tired of living comfortably and making safe decisions. I wanted to risk it all. I wanted to have an impact. I wanted to live boldly. In asking God how He planned for me to do so, I received an unexpected answer.

Football.

There’s hardly a sports tv network, radio station, or social media site that hasn’t covered bits and pieces of my story since the day a few reporters caught me training with the football team at the indoor facility. We had worked so hard to keep my endeavor under wraps. For months and months I had trained–in conjunction with training and competing through my senior soccer season at LSU–with the permission and encouragement of the LSU Football coaches, the guidance of the players, and the care of the trainers. But 6 months into my preparation the cat was out of the bag, and the fire-storm commenced.

With the media attention came the interest. With the interest came the divided opinion. With the divided opinion came every sports-lover’s overwhelming and adamant input into my motives, my ability, my strengths, my weaknesses, my intentions, my faith, my past, my present, my future, and the fact that I had a sports bra strapped to my chest rather than a jock strap between my thighs. In conjunction with the LSU Athletic Administration crew, we worked to hyper-selectively pick through hundreds and hundreds of media requests to handle the necessary evil of addressing the endeavor publicly. We agreed on a handful of outlets and I gave a few interviews, then got back to work. From that point forward, media stations aired, re-aired and shared my story and the nation began to pick apart, evaluate, and dig deeper into all they were convinced they knew about “Mo Isom: the girl trying to play football at LSU”.  All the while, Mo Isom, the girl trying to play football at LSU, was simply doing just that. Warmly accepted and gradually respected by the 100+ young men who suit up on Saturday nights.  Practicing and perfecting a newly-learned kicking form. Studying the game and studying the quirks of the specialist position.  I think the hype of the college football culture in our country often blinds people to the reality that we are just a bunch of kids–navigating our way through college classes, fumbling through the highs and lows of relationships, and ultimately playing the sports we love for the schools we’re awfully proud to represent. I fit right in with my gridiron brothers–there was nothing unique or outrageous that divided us. We were all athletes working our hardest to push ourselves beyond the limit of “normal”. My pursuit of a football career was no different.

The AC hummed as Coach Miles slowly crafted his words. There was a mutual understanding that hung thick in the room. A mutual respect. He knew all I had been through–it was an unspoken reality that demanded respect, for the commitment alone. He knew of my personal journey–the suicide of my father, the horrific car accident–he knew of my recovery, of my unflinching commitment to live life unchained by my adversities. He knew all that I had voluntarily, physically endured for 18 months–the 3-a-days, the strict nutritional regimen, the weight-training program, the injuries, the rehabilitation, the countless hours on my own. He knew that I had navigated the obstacles of being a woman in a man’s environment–that there had never been issue, never been controversy, and that the team respected me and accepted me. He knew that I had handled the media carefully, that I had garnered support from thousands, as well as faced scrutiny and degradation by uninformed, yet overly-confident, outsiders. He knew all of those things. And I knew that he had a difficult decision to make. I knew he had given me a fair opportunity–an open door and open access to his facilities, his coaches, his equipment, and his program.  I knew he had faced scrutiny as well and, likely, a little distraction in the process. I knew that he had a unique situation on his hands and that he had never complained, asked me to leave, or discouraged my goal.  He had always encouraged me, always supported me, and always granted me the opportunity to give my dream my best shot.

He had also always been honest with me. That final day, sitting in his office, was no exception.  It was not easy news to hear, as I’m sure it was not easy news to deliver. After 18 months of effort, nobody wants to hear a “no”. But a “no” was the final verdict. And I had to hold my head high, though my brow quivered and my face grew hot and speckled.

As thoughts and emotions swirled through my mind, I worked to process all that I was feeling. Coach Miles continued to talk, and while I was trying desperately to listen and process his words, I found myself zoomed out of my circumstance and overwhelmed by the weight of  the “no.”

No. Though I could strike 53 yard field goals, there were other guys already on the roster who could do the same.

No. Though I was consistent, accurate, and conditioned, there was not room or need for another specialist that particular season.

No. Though I had worked for a year and a half, extended my college education into the Graduate program, and perfectly structured my course load moving forward, I would not be competing for another fall.

No. Though the nation was on edge waiting to hear the result–though I wanted to prove all those who believed in me right, and disprove all those who had doubted and degraded me–the story was at its end.

No.  Though I believed that God had specifically called me to pursue this goal–the final verdict was NO.

No.

In the weeks that followed, I found myself confused, agitated, anxious, and depressed. All I had invested in for a year and a half was stripped away. All I had been driven by and motivated towards was an illusion. Not only was I not on the team, I was no longer a student-athlete. My eligibility was done. My college career was over. I questioned what more I could have done, I replayed every step and every kick from my tryout. All that I had planned for in the year to come was lost. I questioned Coach Miles, I questioned the motives of the decision, I questioned whether I had ever really had a chance at all. I questioned the system. I had seen how things truly worked from the inside, and I questioned the process. I grieved over the loss of my dream. I grieved over my failure.  I grieved over the “no”.

Time and time again I was drawn back to the same exasperated and frustrated question. “God, I believed that You specifically called me to this chapter of life. Was I mistaken all along? Was I just waisting my time? Am I the fool? Were those who doubted me right? If You called me to take on this challenge, and You saw how diligently and passionately I worked towards it in Your name–always giving You the glory–wasn’t it in Your will for me to ultimately make the team?”

And for the second time in a month, I was hit with the most rattling, course-altering answer…”NO.”

The resounding “no” that was now echoing in my heart gradually pushed out the doubt, anger, and resentment that had been brooding.  This “no” was humbling, precise, and revelatory.  It drew me to a realization of reality that I suppose I was intended to learn, all along. “No” is not a word of dismissal, it is a word of direction.

I was called to listen to God’s leading, take on the challenge He presented me, and passionately pursue the goal He set, in Christ’s name.  I was never assured of the result. Would I have been as willing to take on as crazy, vulnerable, and challenging a feat had I known there was a closed door at the end of it all? No. Yet God had reason for every step of my journey. Was it up to me to worry about whether those who had doubted me were arrogantly walking around with the false presumption that they had been right all along and knew all the details of the situation? No. Their hearts and their humility were in God’s hands. Was I a fool for having tried and having believed in myself? No. I was strengthened, nourished, and matured through the process. Was I a failure for having received a “no”? No. The success was not in the outcome, but in the steps of faith it took to complete the journey.

It is time for us to begin listening to God’s call in our lives and responding. His direction is going to look different in every single one of our journeys. We often have this narrow-minded and presumptuous misunderstanding that God can’t use us on a day-to-day basis unless He is using us in an extreme way. But God yearns to use us daily–in every form, fashion, and function.  Do not box God into the ways you think He can and can’t use you.  He works across a spectrum, so far beyond our understanding, to align each of our steps with perfect purpose.  His call in your life is going to be something tailored to exactly who you are–through your strengths, your talents, and your design. Allow Him to stir your heart and guide your steps.

It is not up to you to fully grasp the outcome before you ever commit to the challenge. It is not up to you to worry or stress about the elements of the process you cannot control. It is simply up to you to move forward and to trust in God’s provision and direction–knowing along the way you are bound to hit big and small “NO’s.” But that “No” is not a word of dismissal, it is a word of direction.

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The Distance of A Smile

I have never enjoyed running distance.

I have always favored sprinting. Quick, sharp, concise movements. Immediate gratification. Immediate results. Fine-tuning my reaction time and response has always been far more appealing to me than building up my endurance and stamina pounding miles away on the pavement.

In addition, my body is built for power. I am woven together with tight, compact muscle fibers that thrive as they coil and release in short bursts of explosive energy. I am dense and I am thick. Goalkeeping, kicking, and explosive weight training have always come easily to me–and I have excelled in maximizing those natural strengths.

However, as my college career drew to a close and my days of competitive soccer, football training, and Olympic power lifting slowly faded past, I found myself at a crossroads.  I wanted to maintain my level of fitness, but I also wanted to lean out, lose some muscle density, and shed some of my explosive bulk.  After all, I wanted to maintain my athletic figure, but my days of maxing out and practically receiving protein shakes through a round-the-clock IV drip were done. I explored a variety of different exercise options, but ultimately was reminded time and time again that the most accessible, most affordable, and most consistent means of achieving and maintaining my ideal body goal was through running distance.

Crap.

There was no way around it. I had to embrace the logic and talk myself into dragging my dense body out onto the street, throwing on a pair of tennis shoes, and taking off. I charted out a jogging course and began forcing myself to run a few days a week. I despised it–every step. My ankles hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurt.  My muscles were tired, my body was out of whack, and every stride was dull and painful. I took off each day with the mentality of “This is awful. I don’t want to do this. I don’t like to do this. I hate that this is the best thing for me, because I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m bored.” I ran with an exasperated look on my face–my brow furrowed, my jaw tight, my nose scrunched. I was miserable and there wasn’t a car that passed that wasn’t fully aware of how much I despised that time of day.

I finally became so fed-up with just running distance that I decided to start swimming, as well.  I figured that would at least provide some variety to my workouts. And if I had a miserable, annoyed, and painful expression on my face, at least my big head would be hidden under water. I visited the aquatic center a few times and fit in going through the motions and pretending I was Michael Phelps, though I probably looked more like a drunken seal flopping through the lane. But just as I became content in the idea that miserably going through the motions with these runs and these swims was my best bet at staying in shape, God stepped in–as He always seems to do–and put my heart through a humbling workout.

I had just pulled myself out of the pool and was sitting on the edge cleaning out my goggles when I looked up and saw a young man walking to the shallow pool. His face was so handsome. He had soft, defined features and dark eyes.  His smile stretched from ear to ear and his hair was wet and combed.  His face was so attractive that I expected to see a fine, sculpted body with toned muscles and dark features to match. But when I looked down I was shocked to see that his body was very disproportionate. He was a good bit overweight and, in looking at him, you would have assumed his head had been plopped onto a stranger’s body. There was a lack of consistency in his form and I started to notice he was walking with a slight limp. It is hard to describe, but it just did not seem like he was intended to be that heavy. It was not a natural body-type for his build and you could tell by his face that he was likely meant to be a much leaner man. But as confused as I was at the sight, my eyes kept drifting back to his contagious smile. He wore such joy.

Shrugging off my confusion about his appearance, I simply thought, “Handsome guy, but what a shame that he’s let himself go. Well, at least he’s working out…” and went back about my business.  It wasn’t until I looked up again that I found myself in a state of utter shock. As he turned his back to me to climb into the pool, I noticed a thick, dark scar that stretched from the top of the man’s neck, all the way down his spine, and disappeared into the line of his shorts. I was stunned. I watched him slowly step down into the pool, balancing the disproportionate body his searing scar had trapped him in.  But as he waded through the water and stretched his heavy limbs, I could not help but stare–at his beautiful smile.

I watched that man rehabilitate for 45 minutes.  At times he would wince, at times he would struggle, but at no point did his graceful smile ever fade.

You see, that man was bound by a body he did not grow up with.  He was bound by a scar he did not ask for.  He was bound in his mobility, his activity, his life. Yet his graceful smile never left his face.  He was bound by adversity, but he was liberated by joy as he entered that pool.  He was happy to be able to do as much as tread water–no matter how badly it hurt him. He was happy to be able to move, no matter how many people stared. He was grateful and he simply smiled.

I woke up the next morning with a smile of my own slung across my face. I had fallen asleep the night before dizzied in thought about the man at the pool, and my walk as a Christian. And the sunrise meant it was time to run.

I laced up my shoes and set off just as the sun was peeking over the Atlanta skyline.  As I put one foot in front of the other, I focused on relaxing the muscles in my forehead, slowly unclenching my jaw, and allowing the corners of my mouth to curve up in surrender. I was smiling. And I was going to smile the entire run.

Stride. Stride. Stride. Stride.

I replaced the thoughts of, “This is awful.” with “Thank you, Lord, for this day.”

I replaced the thoughts of, “I don’t want to do this.” with “I am so blessed to be able to put one foot in front of the other.”

Stride. Stride. Stride. Stride.

I replaced the thoughts of, “I don’t like to do this.” with “Thank you, God, for a healthy body and the energy to burn.”

I replaced the thoughts of, “I hate that this is the best thing for me, because I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m bored.” with “Look at the beautiful sights of this city. Listen to the sound of passing traffic. Breath in the scent of the autumn air. What a blessing that I can run.”

Stride. Stride. Stride. Stride.

I smiled. As my ankles hurt, my knees hurt, my back hurt…I smiled. Though my muscles were tired, my body was out of whack, and every stride was dull and painful…I smiled. And soon I found that I felt those angst no more.

Stride. Stride. Stride. Stride.

I smiled.

I finished my run that day having run my farthest distance, my fastest pace, and my longest time.  My body was fatigued, but my heart was energized. My soul was overwhelmed. All because I never let a smile leave my face or gratitude leave my heart.

Every day that I run now, I smile. As I jogged to the end of my run today, I looked down at my monitor and continued to smile. 68 miles run since the day I started smiling, and I have energy and endurance to burn.

I do not simply want to be a Christian that is comfortable sprinting.  What comes easily for us may be powerful, and it may provide quick results, but I do not want to become complacent in my natural talents. I want to run distance in my faith.

You see, I am wired to function one way. Many of us are. It is easy to lean on the foundations and the teachings we grew up under and feel like once we have those fundamentals mastered, we are in great shape.  Once we’re familiar with the Word, once we’re familiar with what it means to love and serve, once we’re familiar with what it “looks like” to live as a Christian, then we are fit and prepared and can react quickly in life’s circumstances.

But a well-rounded and enduring faith requires pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones and expanding ourselves to persevere for the long-haul. We must be distance runners in our faith.  We must be willing to push ourselves, strain ourselves, and grow fatigued for the Gospel.  That cannot be done by resting on the sprinted fundamentals of Christianity.  It must be acquired through the constant and grueling process of building and maintaining endurance through hope. One day at a time. One foot in front of the other. Choice by choice by choice. Stride by stride by stride.

And while that is not easy work, while it will hurt and ache and wear you down, it CAN be done with joy and willingness. Smile. Find joy in the beauty of what’s around you.  Find appreciation in the fact that you are rising each new day. Find happiness in the simplest of wonders. Find beauty in everything small.  When you are headed up hill and your mind says to stop…smile. When you feel like you can’t face another obstacle or adversity…smile.  When you lose patience and grow weary…smile. Rewire your thoughts to find joy in your days. Choose happiness. Consciously choose to smile. You will be amazed at the difference it makes, and you will be amazed as you come to the end of the road after a long journey of life’s hardships and you find that your emotions are fatigued, but your heart is overjoyed. You’ll be energized and encouraged and alive–all because you chose to smile.

I want to be a Christian who smiles.  As I fight battles and face hardship and grieve and mourn and struggle, I want to smile.  I want to wade into the waters of life knowing, though the hardships of my life leave a scar from the top of my neck to the base of my spine, I can smile.  And though I find myself trapped in circumstances and situations that are disproportionate to what I feel I “deserve” or what I feel is “fair” in life, I can smile. Because I am the child of a King who boasts scars, as well.  I am the child of a King who endured scars for me as He took the cross so that I could live freely and smile. I am the child of a King who assures us that, though the journey will be long, He has great plans for us. He gives us hope and He gives us a future. How grateful we should be to smile.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” –Hebrews 12:1

Let It Fly

A wonderful feature piece written by Grantland.com and ESPN.com writer, Jordan Conn.

In other words, my story through the lens of another…

LET IT FLY

Learning To Love Like A Penny…


Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE my pups. The word love doesn’t even really do justice. It’s the type of love where I’ll sleep in a horribly uncomfortable position on one-quarter of a big bed instead of moving my tiny dogs if they’re already comfortable. It’s the type of love where I’ll leave an event early to speed home and comfort them if it starts storming, because I know how scared and stressed they get when it thunders. It’s the type of love where I know the quirks and oddities of their personalities and find myself laughing out loud, alone, when they do something funny or entertaining.

It’s the type of love that any dog-lover undoubtedly understands…and anyone else undoubtedly finds crazy.

Before you can understand the big-picture message of this post, you have to understand a few details about my dogs. Penny is my little sausage. She’s a seven-year-old red dachshund who is the definition of a ‘stage-five clinger’. I adopted her when she was four and as soon as she found stability, a regularly filled food bowl and the world’s best belly rub, she was hooked. She’s overly protective, barks way too much and is severely un-athletic…but I love her. And she loves unconditionally. She is always by my side, always comes when called and wants nothing more than for me to know how much she loves me.

Jacey is a different story. She is my two-year-old Chiweenie (Chihuahua-Dachshund mix) who I rescued from an illegal puppy mill when she was eight months old. She had been forced to have puppies of her own when she was only 6 months old and was found in an abandoned trailer with 37 other dogs when the puppy mill was raided. After nursing her back to health and showing her consistent love, she made a wonderful transition from an overly aggressive, uncontrollable animal, to a sweet-natured, loyal, and curious pup. She is affectionate, spunky and independent. But as well-behaved and obedient as she is now, at times she still has an overwhelmingly rebellious streak.

(For any of my quick-witted readers, I applaud you for picking up on the humor in their names. Jacey…Penny…Jacey and Penny…think affordable name-brand clothing…think about iiittt…there you go! Yes, I cleverly named them after a mid-budget department store. I bet you won’t forget their names now.)

This rebellious streak gets the best of Jacey when we go outside. I’ve never been big on leashing my dogs because they are typically disciplined enough to stay by my side wherever we go. But after being spoiled by Penny’s next-level attachment issues for years, I had a hard time adjusting to Jacey. If I took my eyes off of her for a split second she would take off like a lightening bolt. Any chance at freedom, she abused. Her curiosity would take over and she would be long gone before I could stop her. In her mind, it was a chance to explore and to see what was around every corner. She did not know any better. She did not know risks. She did not know danger.

However, every time she took off, my heart would sink. Because I already knew what was around every corner. I already knew the risks. I already knew the danger. I knew that a block behind my condo was a four-lane highway. I knew that the lake to the side of my complex was filled with snakes and that she wasn’t a great swimmer. I knew that the woods on the other side of the complex were filled with animals that would love to have her as a snack, and that if she got lost, there was no way I would be able to find her before nightfall. I knew that there was a problem with people abducting dogs and using them in dog fights and as bait. What Jacey did not know is that I did not want her to stay by my side so that I could be the dominant and controlling master–I wanted her to stay by my side because I knew she was safest with me. I wanted her to stay by my side because I loved her and I knew what was best for her.

After months of frustrating, nerve-racking and patient discipline, our “runaway” incidences finally began declining. It wasn’t until just the other day that we “relapsed” and that God used my 10 pound Chiweenie to teach me the most beautiful lesson on His love and my obedience.

You see, I was heading out to go fishing on our lake and had my arms full of supplies. I hollered for the girls to come on and they ran out behind me, following in my footsteps. After I sat everything down by the water I looked back and Jacey was nowhere to be seen. Immediately, I was SO mad. We had gone so long without an incident and now she was missing. I thought we had made such progress in her training, but one tempting sight or sound had captivated her attention, and she was gone. As I began searching around the property, calling her name and directing Penny on where to go look, I found myself growing angrier and angrier. 15 minutes into the search I was sweating bullets…45 minutes into the search I was scraped up, muddy and infuriated…and an hour and a half into the search I was terrified and crying. During that time, my mind and heart had cycled through so many emotions. I had gone from absolute annoyance to overwhelming anger to utter fear. Jacey had never been gone this long and my mind was spinning on where she could be or what may have happened to her. I couldn’t believe she had disobeyed me. I couldn’t believe she hadn’t returned. I loved her so much and had done nothing but loved and cared for her. What could have possibly been SO distracting that she would run from her safety and security?

All this while, fat Penny had been searching alongside me. She was exhausted, panting and filthy, but she wanted nothing more than to help me and to follow me. She knew I was hurting and she wanted nothing more than for her mommy to be pleased. I laid down in the grass to regroup and Penny laid down beside me and started licking a cut on my arm. It was in that moment that God painted the most beautiful image on my heart…

Who are you to grow angry? Who are you to grow weary in searching? Do you know now how it pains Me when you run? You are a Jacey. How I wish you loved like a Penny.

I sat there for a moment in frustration. I had all the right in the world to be mad at my dog. She had disobeyed me and run. She had seen something that tempted her and was more appealing than following me, and she had run. Did she not know that I knew what was best for her? Did she not know how much I loved her? I had all the right in the world to lose patience…

So it hurts you when she runs from you? Perhaps now you know how it pains Me when you run. Perhaps now you know how it hurts me when you disobey Me because something of this world is more tempting and appealing than following Me. Do you not know that I know what is best for you? Do you not know how much I love you? I have all the right to lose patience and to be mad at you…but I show you grace. I never grow weary in searching for you.

I sat there for a moment in humbled awe. I looked down at Penny and she looked up at me–my loyal and faithful Penny. You could drive a truck full of bacon past, and Penny would not leave my side. You could tempt her, distract her, test her, and with one quick whistle she would be at my feet. She is faithful and loyal and obedient because she loves me so much it’s overwhelming at times.

How I wish you loved like a Penny.

I want to be a Christian that loves like a Penny. I want to be so obedient and faithful and true to my God because I love Him SO much that nothing else matters. I want to be protective of my faith and unfazed by this World. I want to bask in the joys of His love because I TRUST that He knows what is best for me. At the end of the day, He loves me unconditionally. He knows what is around every corner. He provides for me and protects me and cherishes me. He is delighted in me and I bring Him joy in my faithfulness and obedience. I want to be a Christian that loves like a Penny.

I wiped a few tears and stood up. Yes, I want to be a Christian that loves like a Penny, but just because Jacey does not grasp that faithfulness yet does not mean that I love her any less. I have always been a Jacey. Most of us are. But just because we get distracted and turn our backs to God and give into temptation does not mean that He loves us any less.

Another 30 minutes of searching passed before I finally heard a collar jingle. I whipped my head around to see Jacey untangling herself from some shrubs, exhausted and panting. She was a mess–muddy, dehydrated and scared. The entire time I had been searching for her I had been imagining all the ways I would punish her when I finally found her. But the moment I saw that little pink collar, I was overwhelmed with joy. She was so ashamed. She knew she had messed up and she slumped over to me with her head hung down to the ground. I scooped up that little puppy and hugged her so tight she squealed. I was so happy to have found my lost girl–I was overwhelmed with joy that she was unharmed and back in my care. I understood the joys of extending grace when it’s rooted in reckless love. I felt a touch of the joy our King feels when we return. Weary, tired, burdened…our heads hung in shame. He loves us all the same.

Do you love like a Penny or are you a Jacey? God is never going to leash us. When we live with Him, we live in freedom. But that freedom is not free of distraction and temptation. That freedom is not free of danger and risk. He wants us to stay close by Him because He knows what is best for us. He knows what is around every corner. He loves us and wants our company. But He will not leash you–He will not force you to remain by His side. That decision is yours.

Anyone who knows God knows that He LOVES us. The word love doesn’t even really do justice. It’s the type of love where forgiveness is infinite. It’s the type of love with no bounds or regulations or quotas. It’s the type of love that is indescribable and unbelievable. It is the type of love that loves a Jacey just as much as it loves a Penny, no matter how many times they run. It’s the type of love that loves a person for their failures just as much as for their successes. It is the type of love that love cannot contain.

It’s the type of love that any Christ-lover undoubtedly understands…and anyone else undoubtedly finds crazy.

Let that love define your obedience.

Psalm 91:4

“He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” –Psalm 91:4

There is absolutely nothing to fear about tomorrow; for God is already there. He is a protector and a comforter, a great hope in times of trouble. Rest in faith and live by #GodsOdds.

Redefining Our Perspective

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath.” –Psalms 39:4-5

It is no secret that our days are numbered. Our lives are short. Our time is ticking.

It is no secret that this scares many people. That it paralyzes our actions. It defines how “safe” and “careful” we live our lives.

This principle and this fear causes us to calculate our every decision based on earthly value. As if this life is all we have to live. As if we are in control of our own clock. As if treading lightly and unnoticed in this world leads to lasting sustainability.

But what if you died tomorrow? What if you died right now? Would your lightly-treaded path of “safety” and “security” leave footprints that impacted the future? Or would your light fade with the setting sun, and your path be overgrown with the weeds of time?

I think many of us live our lives with ourselves at the forefront of our motivation.  Many of us approach our days with the idea that we are the masters of our own universe, the captains of our own ship.  Many of us have a zoomed-in perspective of what God can and can’t do in our lives. And while we say we trust His power, we still consciously and subconsciously clench tight to the steering wheel and base our decisions around our OWN understanding and our OWN perception of life’s magnitude.

Recently in one of my grad school courses, we were studying the idea of perspective.  We came across a photo that showed a pretty phenomenal occurrence. And while my mind was certainly intrigued, I was unaware at how transformed my heart would soon become. Look at the picture below:

You can see where this driver broke through the guardrail, on the right side of the culvert, where people are standing on the road, pointing.  The pick-up was traveling about 75 mph, from right to left, when it crashed through the guardrail. It flipped end-over-end, bounced off and across the culvert outlet, and landed right-side-up on the left side of the culvert, facing the opposite direction from which the driver was traveling. The 22-year-old driver and his 18-year-old passenger were unhurt, except for minor cuts and bruises.

As I stared at this photo, I couldn’t help but marvel at the unbelievable fortune of the two young people in the car. I couldn’t help but try and figure out how, exactly, that truck had flipped in such a manner. How it had avoided striking the concrete outlet and how little damage the body of the truck had received. And I certainly couldn’t help but stare, stunned, at how the car landed and how blessed the driver and passenger were to have left the scene unharmed.

I caught myself murmuring a small prayer. Praising God for His awesome protection and splendor. Praying for the hearts of the boys in the vehicle. How I hoped they realized how blessed they were to still be alive, and how I hoped they recognized how God’s hand had truly guided their truck with perfect intent. Their days could have been numbered far fewer. But, by the grace of God, they were given the opportunity to live. I sat wondering how they now used that gift.

I wondered if God had revealed Himself to the occupants of that truck in a similar way He had revealed Himself to me in my car accident. (For those of you who are just finding their way to this blog for the first time, I encourage you to read the “My Story” portion of the blog so you can see how God saved my broken life through a similar circumstance.) I smiled at the thought of His protection in the photo, then as quickly as I had been emotionally moved by the picture, I felt as though I emotionally grasped God’s splendor in that instance.

That is until I turned the page of my textbook and saw the exact same photo from a wider perspective…

This is the same scene, zoomed out. You can see the culvert, you can see the truck.  But this time, you can see that the truck is actually resting precariously on the edge of a deadly cliff. The truck is resting inches from a drop that would have undoubtedly cut the number of the kids’ days very short.

As I stared at this photo, I found myself utterly speechless. Where I had jumped into prayer before, I found myself stunned to silence now. Not simply due to the sharp chills that sliced down my spine when I saw the gut-wrenching photo, but because of the message that flooded my heart almost immediately.

You see, this was an academic lesson on perception in the media. But for me, this was a heart lesson on perception of God’s magnitude.  Our fragility. And the value of the days we are rewarded through Him.

I wonder how often in life we base our praise for our King off of the zoomed-in perspective of the first photo.  How often have we zoomed-in solely on our own life and the amazing work He has done in it, and fooled ourselves into thinking we were seeing the full picture? You see, when we live life zoomed-in, we unknowingly place God in a box. We unknowingly calculate our praise worthy of the grace we can tangibly understand. We unknowingly limit ourselves and our potential in Him to what we think He can do through us. We wear blinders to our full potential in Christ. We wear blinders to our full potential impact in life.

But look at just a taste of what MORE there is we are missing! Look at just a taste of what a zoomed-out perspective holds in store! Are we living day-to-day giving zoomed-in praise to a zoomed-out King? Are we essentially praising one single tiny thread amongst a quilt of glory? Are we seeing the big picture? Or are we missing the grandeur of His feats because all we care to see is ourselves in His plan?

Our days are numbered and every single morning that we are given the opportunity to wake up, we must take advantage. We must commit our lives, fearlessly, to living for our King. Even when we can only see the zoomed-in view, we must commit our lives to serving a God with a zoomed-out plan.

When we try to control our own lives, we do just about as good of a job as the guy who was trying to control his pickup truck. We are bound to lose control and flip over the guardrails of truth. Thank goodness we serve a God that can land us safely and give us another opportunity. Thank goodness we serve a God that designed the big picture and is ALWAYS able to rescue us from far worse than we even know exists.

We serve a Sovereign God that is so much bigger, so much grander, and so much mightier than we will EVER be able to comprehend. We serve a God that cannot be boxed in. We serve a God that has no boundaries, no limits, and no chains. And we serve a God that LOVES US SO MUCH that He offers us the ability to host that Spirit of grandeur within ourselves through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Take a look at your life. Are you treading lightly or are you stamping powerful footprints in His name? We are called to live BOLDLY! We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We are called to live a life that is worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to live a life that glorifies a zoomed-out King! How can we do that when we are playing it “safe” and basing our potential around the limitations of a zoomed-in world?! If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you host a Spirit of INFINITE possibility within your heart! There is NOTHING that you cannot achieve through faith.

I want to live a zoomed-out life. I want my reliance on God’s guidance to be radical and selfless and bold. I want to redefine what this world says is possible and rewrite the books of possibility in HIS NAME! I want to wake up every morning and say to God, “USE ME! Use me however You need. Use me in whatever capacity, with whatever challenges, and under whatever scrutiny You know that I can handle. Fill me with Your limitless strength and energy and use me as Your tool!”

Are you willing to pray that prayer? Do you believe in His sovereign plan? Do you trust that there is a zoomed-out picture that holds more grace and beauty and magnitude than our zoomed-in minds can even understand? Do you truly trust God? Do you trust that He will protect you and use you as He sees fit? …Then let Him.

Our days are numbered. Our lives are short. Our time is ticking. How will you use yours to glorify God’s name?

The only thing more dangerous than allowing others to put limitations around what you can achieve, is allowing yourself to believe them. Live fearlessly. Live boldly. Live zoomed-out. Live by #GodsOdds.