By JENNY SEYLAR
I never fully realized how lucky I was until an African family showed up on the doorstep of the church with luggage in hand, and seeking asylum in the United States. The arduous three month journey from the African continent, through South and Central America, and then into the US through Texas, took determination, faith, and endurance. In a matter of days, I learned that my part in their journey was also one that would take endurance as I became one of their spokespersons and advocates. The gifts that we, as Americans, take for granted, do not come easily to people seeking asylum: housing, food, employment, communication, and more. These are readily available to those of us who already reside here, but acquiring them as a refugee, well, that’s another story, because it takes 1-2 years to be granted asylum in this country.
On the day the family arrived, I had proclaimed this statement to myself and to my friends on Facebook: “I am broken and mending; despairing and hopeful; fearful and courageous; stepping out of complicity and into liberation; I move forward with a new sense of purpose to do life and ministry amid the hurting on the margins. God, please guide me, and send to me companions for this journey.” In the course of one afternoon, the arrival of this family had collided with my call. Through prayer and dozens of phone calls, I found people that kept providing the necessary help to get the family the immediate things they needed. God had provided companions for the journey. It felt as if God were saying, “Finally you are listening to where I am calling you to serve.”
Parallel to the ministry I do with the African family and with many others is my own journey. Day-to-day life continues to be an endurance race. Grief creeps in when I least expect it. Loneliness occasionally blankets my leisure time. The challenges of being in a single person household seek to halt me in my path. Still, I refuse to let the weight of life thwart my journey towards wholeness. I know that there will be ups and downs, that the path will sometimes be blocked, and so I cling to the promises of Christ: “So then, with endurance, let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne. Think about the one who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you won’t be discouraged and you won’t give up.” (Hebrews 12: 1-3, CEB)
In my darkest moments, Christ shows up and seems to say: “Look to me. I know what hardship is. I have endured greater things than this. I died for you, even though I could have taken another path. You can do this, dear daughter. I have given you what you need to endure if you will just trust me every day. I have provided faithful ones to encourage you along the way, and to pick you up when you fall. Trust me in this.” And so I trust, and in doing so, I have learned that life is more like a marathon than a sprint. Yet in my life, the distance is yet unknown. There is no measurement or countdown to which I have been made aware. I could die tomorrow or live another fifty years; it’s not for me to know or to spend energy worrying about. And so I look to Christ as I have most of my life. I look to Christ as I did some 21 months ago when my husband died unexpectedly. I look to Christ and run the race of life, knowing full well that the path is still hidden, yet trusting Him anyway. At times Christ sends companions for the journey, and other times it’s just me. Either way, I will endure.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Dear one, what things in life are you enduring right now? Who has Christ sent to journey with you? Do you recognize the gifts that they offer for the season in which you are together? Who are you running alongside to guide them on their journey, and what gifts do you have to offer? We were not created to do life alone. There is a place in each of us that desires God AND desires human interaction. Life takes endurance so invite Christ along. Invite others along, too, because we are blessed when we do so.
PRAYER God of Life and Hope, thank You for Your presence in my life. I am grateful for the people who have journeyed with me my whole life, and for those who have come alongside just for a season. They have blessed me. Help me to be a blessing to others, willing to run this endurance race of life with them. Awaken in me the call that You have for my life, and guide me as I live out that call. Thank You, Lord. Amen.
ABOUT JENNY SEYLAR
Jenny Seylar is a woman with a deep faith in Jesus Christ who serves in ministry at a United Methodist Church in Iowa. As a pastor and youth director, she is passionate about walking with youth, young adults, and adults of all ages as they journey in their faith. She believes in creating authentic relationships in order to walk alongside folks wherever they are in their faith journey.
In 2017, Jenny’s husband of 28 years unexpectedly died while on a training bicycle ride. In the aftermath, Jenny and her 3 grown kids, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter, have sought ways to find joy in the everyday miracles that make up this life. You can read more about Jenny Seylar and her ministry at www.lovelylane.org or her blog “Journey From Despair to Hope” at https://journeyandstrength.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/through-the-lens-of-grief/