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.
Tonight I was doing scripture work on these two verses. These two verses are packed with significant words and thoughts, that my notes stretched into 5 pages long.
O, when verses seem so autobiographical. They cut to the marrow like the two-sided sword says that it will.
I could copy out my entire work on these verses, but my time and your patience in reading are probably not long enough to do so. Instead, I am going to focus on the word “Straining”.
Straining Forward. Straining Forward.
But one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.
I’ve studied these verses before, but I seem to have missed the significance of straining forward. I’m so glad that Paul did not use the word “moving” forward; because that is not what it is like. Pushing forward to what lies ahead comes closer to the heart of things, yet is off by just a bit.
No, it’s that word straining. Because that is what it is like. To keep pressing forward, I find myself straining. Sometimes with gritted teeth. And honestly, it’s not easy. It’s not easy to keep straining to put one foot in front of the other each day, forgetting what lies behind. Because, there is much to forget-there is much pain to forget, to fight for joy over. But the forgetting allows me to strain forward.
Straining forward takes work. Hard work. It means fighting for sanity. It means fighting to study scripture, the only path to settledness. It means fighting to pray even when I do not sense God.
When I picture someone straining, they are doing so despite great difficulty, pain and exhaustion. Take a look at the Ironman triathletes. In Kona on the Big Island, I would occasionally go down to the finish line after work to see some of the runners cross the finish line. This would usually be around 10 PM, so these runners coming in are among the last to cross that finish line. But what is clear on each of their faces, is that they are straining forward. Sure, it would be easier to quit, to lie down and remove the shoes and bloodied socks and quit. But with raw determination, they strain toward the finish line, toward the prize.
I want that to be me. Even though straining is hard, difficult, exhausted and I often consider giving up, I want to be that person who despite all, strains forward.
But for someone to strain forward,, there must be something that they are straining forward for. For the triathlete, it’s crossing that finish line. For me–for all believers–there is a goal. The very best goal. That prize is the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. The upward call of God in Christ Jesus. What is that Upward Call? I am not sure. I don’t know. Though I fail often, I am learning to trust God; trust that He does have a call for me in Christ Jesus. And I want that Upward call. And ultimately, I want the Upward Call to go home.
Tomorrow I have to go back to work. I don’t want to, but God has supplied this job for me at this time. So I must go. I must provide for my family the best way that I can.
And so, I will wake up tomorrow morning and work hard at straining forward. Forward toward the Upward Call of God.