A recent blast of cold has me thinking back to February 4, 2014.

Effectively Managing Your Time; that’s the name of the Center for Nonprofit Management morning workshop that started the day.  The rest of the day felt like I hadn’t learned a thing as I moved from one thing to the next all day long.

The more regular work moved right into an evening Board of Director’s meeting with planning for the 2nd annual ministry celebration, dinner and silent auction; details, details, details; and passionate conversation about how to restate more clearly the mission of BENCHMARK.

It was a good meeting but by the time it was over I needed to work over my thoughts.  Life had squeezed out my training run for the day and I needed to get it in before bed.

It’s 9:30pm.  That would be…dark…but I’ve run in the dark before.  It’s cold, upper 30s, but I’ve run in the cold before.  It’s raining and has been…but I’ve been wet before…so out the door I go.

It’s a familiar route: out Nebraska Ave, jump on the greenway to go around the back side of McCabe golf course, cross the Richland Creek bridge, behind the US Army Reserve center, cross another Richland Creek bridge, up by the railroad tracks to Cherokee Ave to Westlawn Dr and home.  It’s a 4-mile run.

Did I mention it had been raining?  The day was shaping up for 2″ of rain.

So out Nebraska Ave I go, jump on the greenway to go around McCabe golf course to find some standing water on the greenway.  That’s not that unusual when it’s been raining but now my shoes and feet are getting wet and my toes are starting to get cold.

A little further and it’s obvious Richland Creek was out of its banks adding the greenway to its path.  “Oh…this ain’t good.”  It’s now over my shoes and I have completely wet feet.  Again, not my first time, but I could feel the cold moving up my legs.

For easily 200 feet I splashed my way through shin deep water, high stepping it all the way. As I approach a little rise in the flood I’m thinking… keep moving or turn back.  My mind is racing.  What’s the risk?  What if I go down and then get full soaked?  Did I tell my wife my route?  This skinny body doesn’t like to go “all in” in cold water in cold weather.

Now I’m nervous.

I look ahead and can make out the reflection of plenty of water.  I’m not quite half way.  Though I know this route, I don’t know it so well underwater…soaked nearly to the knees, water splashing up above my knees, in that temperature.  I know what’s behind me and not sure of what’s ahead of me.  Keep moving or turn back?

I’ve bumped into life hard enough to ask myself that question more than a few times. Haven’t you?

This nonprofit I’ve led for 21 years called BENCHMARK Adventure Ministries – keep moving or turn back?

I taught college for 7 years and there were not a few times when I would ask – keep moving or turn back?

Parenting – keep moving or turn back?

Marriage – keep moving or turn back?

Stepping off a 180′ rappel – keep moving or turn back?

Reaching for that next ackward climbing hold that’s going to stretch me, and my belayer, a little further than I wanted to be stretched – keep moving or turn back?

Hitting whitewater in an open canoe with the skills I have – keep moving or turn back?

Engaged and investing in a local church – keep moving or turn back?

A friendship that is going ugly – keep moving or turn back?

The forced submission from poor leadership that too highly values high compliance – keep moving or turn back?

Particularly challenging work relationship – keep moving or turn back?

I feel it in my chest and in my throat. Sometimes in my arms. That uneasy feeling that things are changing and may do so memorably.

You and I have both lived long enough to ask that question in one-way or the other.

My tendency is to splash right on in and to keep going until I’m stopped.  It has served me well…most of the time.

You know “that which does not kill us, makes us stronger” says Friedrich Nietzsche…and explored by Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning…and singer / songwriter Kelly Clarkson.

And I’ve stayed put when others left and made an eternal impact.
I’ve also lived long enough to realize there have been times when I should have turned back but I stuck it out and created more problems for everyone.

But what about you?  What are you shin deep in right now that has you asking…keep going or turn back?  It’s that place where fear and uncertainty creeps in and you’re put through it.  So…keep moving or turn back?

You may get through it and find out, in time, that you were stretched beyond your ability to endure and came out stronger, or deeper, or kinder, or steadier, or more joyful, or seeing your life more clearly as a vapor, or with a fresh ability to see someone else’s perspective.

Or, you may look back on it with deep hurt and wish you had chosen differently.

So I finished that run.  Feet, legs and belly red from the cold.  Thankful that I didn’t go down.  Wondering if I had leveraged the grace of God foolishly. Realizing I’d pushed through something hard…again.

Oh for the wisdom of God and an obedient heart to be more responsive in the middle of fear, hesitation, uncertainty, hurt and fuzzy understanding.

I’m very clear there has been a time or two when I was ready to stop and just walk away, when I was ready to quit but I’m still here.

At this point…I think I’ll just keep moving and see where this journey takes me.

“Though I have spent my life in pursuit of God, I often sense that God lies just around the next bend in the trail, just behind the next tree in the forest.  I keep walking because I like where the journey has led me thus far, because other paths seem more problematic than my own, and because I yearn for the resolution of the plot.”     Philip Yancey, Soul Survivor, 2001, p. 253f