When I was in third grade, I was finally able to run in the Junior Olympics. Our P.E. coaches, Mrs. Arthur and Mr. Parson, had begun preparing Ann and I early in our first and second grade years. They boasted on our natural ability to run, enjoyed our healthy, competitive attitudes and established a bond of trust with us that boosted our confidence. We trained until we were standing on the track at the Franklin County High School for Junior Olympics.
Now, Mama loved putting our hair in ponytails. Each ponytail was decorated with a pretty, colorful plastic bow at the end. It would have been fine, except our hair was long and every time we swung our heads from side to side, we became victims of the ponytails’ wrath. They nearly wrapped around our little throats and left unnecessary scratches and cuts on our faces.
Nevertheless, we were on the track for the preliminary 200 meter relay race with our long ponytails and blue hair bows, which matched the blue “LES” shirt I proudly wore. I stood ready with great anticipation in the first lane and stretched my arms as I believed Jim Thorpe or Jesse Owens would have.
The gun sounded and I took off like lightening around the curve. I watched as Coach Parson dashed across the field for the finish line. He yelled, spit and flung his arms in the air as he encouraged me on. When I hit the straight-a-way, I noticed that I was running the race all by myself and Coach Parson was ahead of me. I closed my eyes confidently, swung my head from side to side with a huge smile on my face, and ran faster as I silenced all other voices in the stands, including my mother, and listened for Coach Parson’s voice at the finish line.
I won that race that day. When my racing buddies told that story when we were in high school, they insisted that my ponytails with blue bows and side-to-side head swing were the lethal forces that took them out of the race, leaving them with cuts and bruises. Me . . . all I remembered was hearing Coach’s voice at the finish line.
The passages in Mark 4:24-25 and Luke 8:18 are scriptures I have often found myself meditating. Jesus told his disciples to heed what and how they heard, because that was the determining factor for the quantity of faith they were given. It made sense to me: faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). The more I heard, the more faith I had; the more faith I had, the more access I had to God and His promises. Simple . . . or so I thought.
I remember times when those words weren’t so simple. I listened to friends who praised me as long as I pleased them. I listened to the words of my abuser who told me I was wasting my time believing for a solution that was never coming. I listened to my fearful words convincing myself I was not worth loving. In time, those words overrode the voice of God. They overrode Jesus, Himself, as He yelled and flung His hands, which were pierced for my sake, wildly above His head. Eventually, their love and what they did were not enough for me because other voices kept me from seeing their worth.
We’ve heard it time and time again; we must silence the “extra” voices we hear in our mind, will and emotions, as well as those voices from others around us, so that we may hear God’s voice and heed His words. Only then, when we hear His voice, are we able to breakthrough and overcome.
I encourage you, my loved ones. Don’t be drawn aside by the crowds in the stands. Instead, close your eyes, swing your head from side to side as your hair beats against your face and listen for God’s voice beckoning at the finish line.