When I first heard the words uttered from a professional, “Your child may have a mental illness,” I couldn’t begin to comprehend the magnitude of this statement. I had no idea that this would be a journey which required tremendous perseverance. How could I ever run this race?
With determination, I set out to fix things. I began spinning in all directions grasping for wisdom to make sense out of something I didn’t understand. At the time I had taken no classes, known of no one with an illness like this, and wasn’t even sure I believed there was such a thing as mental illness.
I had always lived my life by the philosophy that one just needs to “try harder.” You know mind over matter. This did not work.
Entering into the arena of mental health challenges was foreign to me. I threw myself in 200%; no stone would be left unturned. I studied, read countless books, contacted experts in the field and found the best help we could. I would not rest. After all, this was my child, and I was her momma. I grasped for wisdom from everywhere.
Of course, I quickly became overwhelmed as I worried about yesterday, today and tomorrow all at the same time. I quickly found out determination and mind over matter would not cure mental illness. I had met my match.
No matter how much I loved my child, I was not God nor did I have the power to wash away the illness.
I desperately needed some help, a tool of some sort to keep going.
My sweet friend could see I had faith that was unwavering and that I had fixed my eyes on Jesus, but she didn’t stop there. She knew I would never last the long haul at the rate I was going. She kindly shared with me what it is like to run a marathon. Her words stuck with me,
“Just focus on the next mile marker.”
At first, I didn’t understand how valuable this information was nor did I even have a clue what it was like to run a marathon. You see I am not a runner. However, I had just started the biggest race of my life, one that I desperately wanted to finish.
Quitting was not an option for me, so I needed to figure out how to keep going with a heart filled with guilt, sadness, and a longing for the way it used to be. I wanted to learn how to persevere in the worst of times. I was determined to keep going when those around me opposed my race, quit, or even when my child wanted to give up.
Don’t for a minute think God was not with me, He was. He took every single step with me. My eyes were fixed on him. He never left my side. My faith said, “God will bring us through,” but I was no fool –
I had to do my part too by learning how to cope and love in the midst of my child’s mental illness.
I would need to run the race with mental health challenges like a marathoner. My eyes needed to be fixed on the next mile marker and not the finish line.
“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.” Walter Elliot
Planning is my forte, so this was a lesson that did not come easy. I had prided myself on the ability to see the future and plan ten markers ahead. But now the fog would not clear, and the finish line became out of focus. It was unbearable to look to the future when the present held so much pain and uncertainty.
It has been over eleven years since we first started down the road with mental health challenges in our family. I am forever grateful for learning about focusing on the mile marker. It has become one of my most valuable lessons in life. Focus only on the next mile marker.
Now when life comes crashing down around me which it does from time to time,
I immediately fix my eyes on God and figure out what my next mile marker is.
I am always amazed at how I can get through the unthinkable using this method.
You may not have mental health challenges in your family, but I know life gives us all the unbearable at times. At some point, you will find yourself on a path where you can’t see a clear way. When that happens, I encourage you to stay on the road.
Fix your eyes on Jesus and remember you just have to get to the next mile-marker.
……… And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12: 1-2
Join me next week as I share seven lessons taken from those that run marathons.
I would love to hear what helps you run the race when life gets tough?
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