"Give it all you got" or Not?

Updated: Jul 7

Growing up as a young woman my mom ran a day care center out of our house.  She ran this day care center and from time to time she also took in foster children. She also made our home a hang out spot for all of our friends. So to say our home was always crowded and full of activity was an understatement. We would come home from school or work or wherever and would be met with loud noises, children underfoot, good food and we would immediately get to work. We each would just jump in and find something to do. Well all of the foster kids were special and amazing we loved them all. One day we received a call for a baby just five days old! Her mom wasn’t well, and we would care for her until her mom was better and able to care for her. Well we saw that beautiful little face and head full of hair and instantly fell in love with her!

We all jumped in and took turns caring for her and loved every minute of it. We all would stand over her crib when she cried, she became a member of the family. When her mom got better and went back home, she allowed us to stay in her life and we were overjoyed. She would visit with us every weekend and we took her everywhere we went! Everything a young adult Christian would do on a Saturday night she did with us. Bowling, basketball games, concerts, game nights. Our dates even knew she was part of the package, so our outings had to be kid appropriate. She was an amazingly vibrant, bright, charismatic and intelligent child that people just loved immediately so it was easy. Sometimes to the point where we forgot she was so much younger than us. 

Well one weekend we went to a basketball game. She was about ten years old at the time. It was just me and her this time, my sisters weren’t around this weekend. We had a fantastic time at the game screaming, jumping up and down! I loved basketball and at the time was pretty involved with youth activities.  She even made the crowd laugh hysterically when a player went up for a missed dunk. She immediately jumped up singing “I believe I can fly” to the top of her lungs! Ha! [The player didn’t find it funny.]  Anyway, the game ended our youth group team won and we were heading home. I don’t know why I didn’t take a cab with this little girl instead of the bus and walk. My neighborhood was safe and she was with me, so of course she would be safe. However, it was irresponsible looking back.

So we got off the bus and were walking home. Now I’m a New Yorker so I walk fast and with purpose. We were yapping as we walked and talking so much that I didn’t realize we weren’t walking right next to each other. I mean she was right on my heels but we weren’t side by side. I didn’t realize that she was behind me. It wasn’t until I heard her whispering to herself saying, “you can do it meeka” . I looked back to see her pumping her arms feverishly and willing her little body to keep up with me. Now to give context I’m not that tall but she is 10 a short ten, trying to keep up with a fast talking, fast walking 30+ year old, doing a decent job but not quite there. My heart sank, my voice cracked as I asked her, "everything okay pookie"? “Yes” she replied immediately and kept power walking. I looked around and saw how dark and deserted it was and felt ashamed. So I kept at her. "Do you want to stop, take a cab from here what do you want to do“ "Nothing, I’m OK”, she replied quickly. I could hear the overwhelming enthusiasm to make it, but I also heard a little fatigue too and I felt horrible. I kept on because I didn’t want her to feel defeated but I did slow down. I didn't slow down enough for her to notice, but enough so she could drop her arms and take a little breath. 

This was fifteen years ago and I remember it so clearly. I thought about this the other day and tears welled up in my eyes like it was yesterday. I think back to myself and wonder, as I did then- why didn’t she just tell me I was walking too fast?  All I could come up with is that in her mind it wasn’t that I was going to fast. It was that I set a pace, and she was determined to meet it. Whatever she had to do to keep up with me she was going to do. I also think (which makes me a little sad) is that she knew that walking was as natural to me as any other form of transportation and, and, and… she just didn’t want to disappoint me! She didn't want to be a burden. She was willing to stretch herself and move as fast as her ten year old body could go.

We’re still in touch she is a full blown member of the family now.  One of our favorite pastimes when we get together is walk! We would power walk for miles just laughing and talking.  She has to ask me now ‘got on your walking shoes Mary’ before we start out on our next adventure. Now from time to time I get tired but I stick it out as the tables have turned, she has surpassed me in a number of ways. She is a mom, an amazing mom, an accomplishment that alluded me. She is so focused on loving her son and her man that she decorated her home so that her baby boy (at not even one years old) has open room to run, play and grow. I’m so proud of her I don’t know what to do. 

Why do I tell you this story? I read in Proverbs 15 that he loves him who follows after righteousness.

What does that mean? He acknowledges our efforts, our intention and our perseverance. When we chase after him with all of our mind, heart and soul he sees that. He also put a plan in place for when we fall and FALL SHORT of His glory. That’s why it’s called “fall short”. He knows the seemingly insurmountable task of chasing after righteousness. He knows our legs are too short, he’s not clueless like I was. He knows that with effort, intention and persistence our legs will get longer, stronger, our stamina will build and shunning the very presence of evil will get easier. 

He also knows when we’re not giving it our all. He knows when we’re not pushing it. He knows our heart and when we’re just phoning it in. 

In our professional lives and in our relationships we know when we’re giving it all we have and when we’re just phoning it in. The people around us do as well.  Now more than ever we have to give our best effort to everything we do at all times. No short changing, no half stepping, no haphazard efforts. Growth in all forms has to be an ongoing, tenacious effort that we pursue at all times or we will fall short. Not just fall short- we can lose our position. Get right- or get left.