By LeeAnn Witzigman
“Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-25
In the summer of 2021, our oldest son Blake enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and was bused from his hometown to Parris Island, South Carolina for 13 weeks of bootcamp. He had confidently committed to a calling on his life and we leaned forward as we watched from the sidelines when he took off on this new leg of his race. For Patrick, the following weeks served as a trip down memory lane as he read the letters Blake sent and relived his own bootcamp experience from days gone by. We decided before he even got on that bus that we would each write him a letter every day, so he’d never go a day without hearing from someone who was cheering him on. This proved to be the sweetest season of my relationship with Blake, who was 14 years old when God turned the ashes of two failed marriages into beauty for a family that was destined to be rebuilt on faith. I took such pleasure in the one-sided conversation I got to have where I could just affirm him, tell stories of how much he meant to me in moments I’m sure he didn’t remember, and to have the ear of his heart without the interruption of everyday distractions. And I could often feel the response from him as he was being met in a place of fatigue and weariness with words of love and life. Our God can place the weight of His glory on a weightless piece of paper marked with postage to the place of military training and extreme testing of endurance, so that His words light up dimly lit places.
The day before his graduation from bootcamp, we arrived early and decided to walk around the military base. We heard the sound of marching feet and followed it into the outdoor arena where rehearsal was being held by thousands of newly minted Marines. As we stood to the side of the entrance gate, every few minutes hundreds of young, uniformed soldiers would run by us. It seemed highly unlikely that we would find Blake in the sea of identical boots, clothing, and hats. After a few moments, Patrick erupted beside me with tears and clapping. Blake had spotted us first and I wish you were there to see his face when all of our eyes met. It was an expression I had never seen before on my son … who was now a man I might add! It was as if all the emotions, every drop of sweat, each thought of throwing in the towel, and the hope of the assured coming victory was displayed all at once in his eyes, smile, and tears. He was truly unrecognizable, except that I was deeply tucked into the pounding heart within him.
I was thinking about that unforgettable moment this week as I begin a new leg of my race at another church where God has recently called our family. As I was praying and re-dedicating my heart to God in this season of trust and newfound faith, He brought that split second memory of Blake before me. I know He was showing me that He’s the one at the entrance to this next open gate and His claps and tears are louder than every collective sound on the earth right now. He has also spent eternity writing daily letters to me and using every possible moment of my life to reveal Who He is and has always been. And I saw myself in gratitude and humility as I almost didn’t recognize who I was, because the woman who journeyed these last five years certainly is not the same one who is crossing over this threshold of glory and goodness today.
I feel that God has many of us in a season of training right now and we are being developed for greater Kingdom assignments. I sense that He is repositioning and moving His army of warriors into places where the enemy has established strongholds among His children. I hear Him calling out, though only a few will respond and have the courage to move at the sound of His voice. But I want to encourage the Body of Jesus Christ that whatever you must lay down and place back into the Father’s hands, He will surely exchange everything for a greater portion of Himself, which is better than all we’ve come to know and experience in this life.
I’m praying for my fellow Kingdom advancers that you would be faithful to endure the testing and spiritual exercise that will be necessary to grow you into the useful servant who will see great glory. And I smile to know there is a day coming where the look on your face as you cross over into whatever God has next for you shines brighter than all the heavenly lights turned on at once.
Press onward and run to win that His beautiful name might be exalted in all the Earth! And see the everlasting crown He has promised you is hanging in the air above you like a kiss blown right from His prized heart.