"Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
They are brought to their knees and fall,
but we rise up and stand firm."
- Psalm 20:7-8
One thing I have learned to appreciate about our marriage is that we pull each other outside of our comfort zones. For Shawn, that may mean joining me on thrift store missions or helping me bake.
For me, it's ball sports.
I was never known to be the athletic one in our family. I did run track and cross country in high school, but when it came to any other kind of sports (especially ones involving balls), I stayed away. I was not only just not interested, but I was self-conscious to try because I had convinced myself I was terrible at them. And perhaps because God has a sense of humor, I married a man who lives for sports (namely, soccer) and subtly urges me to give them a second chance.
A few weekends ago, we had a cookout with some friends and Shawn brought these two paddles and a little rubber ball to play with. Knowing there would be other men there, I wasn't concerned about it. But when he smiled and handed me one of the paddles, I swallowed hard.
'What?!' I thought. 'Is he trying to make a fool out of me in front of our friends? I thought he knew... I don't do ball sports.'
I reluctantly took the paddle and hit the ball back and forth with him. To both of our surprise, I did really well and even enjoyed it.
So when we went rollerblading the other night, I was cautiously excited. I hadn't rollerbladed since last summer, and State Street in Chicago isn't really for beginners. Oh, and I don't know how to stop.
We headed for an empty street nearby and as I held onto Shawn, I began to relax and was able to enjoy the calm summer breeze. He eased his hand out of mine and I skated alone with moderate confidence until it was time to stop. We saw a car up ahead, and I yelled out to Shawn, "Sweetie, I don't know how to stop!" He whipped around his skates, looking like a professional, and said, "You're ok. Just hold onto me." I skated into his arms and effectively stopped.
We continued to skate through Lincoln Park and we found an empty spot to learn how to stop.
We'd speed up, count to three, then I'd bend my left knee and drag my right skate until I had come to a complete stop. The first few times, I held onto Shawn for dear life, afraid I'd fall and break something. But as time went on, I loosened my grip. By the end, I only needed the brush of his hand to have the confidence to stop on my own.
As we headed back home, I skated on my own, but my posture revealed my insecurities. Knees bent, leaning forward just a tad too far, I looked like I was bracing myself for an inevitable fall. But as soon as I could feel Shawn behind me and could sense his touch - even the lightest touch on the back of my arm - I straightened up, relaxed my muscles, and the fear left me. I glided effortlessly over the dips and divots in the road, knowing that if anything happened, Shawn was right there and would help me.
We made our final turn towards home and noticed our friend Pops sitting on the street corner near our apartment. Pops lives in a nearby nursing home but panhandles during the day and has the sweetest smile you've ever seen. He is always an encouragement - he knows and breathes the nearness of God - and he talks openly about the Lord. He was there later than usual because he had prayed for someone the day before and was waiting for them to come back and tell him how God answered his prayer.
"God always answers, you know," he said, pointing to the sky. "It doesn't matter your situation, He's always there and He always hears."
It was just what I needed to hear before the next few days, which brought some unexpected dips and divots in our road. While we were thrilled with the news that we'll be moving to Texas, we found out that we need to move out of our apartment about a month earlier than planned. We found ourselves having to make some important decisions, and honestly, it felt for a short time that God didn't really have my best interest in mind. I would've liked to stay in Chicago longer, but it just wasn't going to happen. And as I let my mind wander, I dwelled on the many unknowns of the upcoming months: Where will we work? Where will we live? How long will we stay in Nashville? How will we meet friends?
But then I remembered rollerblading. I remembered Pops' wise words. And I remembered God's promises to be near that flood the Scriptures:
"I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:8)
"You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great." (Psalm 18:35)
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10)
"For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13)
Sure, I could probably make it without acknowledging His presence in my situation. But I'd be much like I was when I tried to skate alone - bracing myself at every bump, hunched over, ready to break the fall.
That's no way to live.
Instead, I choose to allow God's touch to sustain me. Fear must flee and I am able to stand tall and free, ready to face whatever comes with confidence.