Autumn Strong

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. —2 Timothy 4:7-8 NIV

Someone made me cry last weekend. I didn’t even know her name. She was the sister of a neighbor of mine. We were at our annual neighborhood block party, standing in the late afternoon sun, when she smiled at me and said, “Oh, I just have to say this. You are so beautiful standing there in the sunlight!” I blinked in disbelief. I’m not beautiful anymore, not that I ever was. But at 61 years of age, well aware of the age spots and wrinkles appearing in frightening profusion, not to mention my plantar fasciitis, the growing arthritis in my left thumb, and the near deafness in one ear, her sweet comment rocked me. And I blinked back tears. You see, I don’t “feel” pretty. And most of the time I’m fine with that. I want to be “inside pretty” even if the outsides are increasingly less attractive. But at that moment, I felt actually … a little bit … beautiful. All because of a random and very kind comment from a stranger.

I’m no longer in the spring or summer of my life. I’ve definitely hit “autumn,” and I want to make it count. I love how the trees in autumn don’t just quit. Instead, they let loose colors that are vibrant and bright and bold in their last days before winter strips them bare. There’s no quitting for those trees until every leaf has blazed its color across the clear blue autumn sky, lighting up the world with a rush of color even as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder. Living in New Hampshire, autumn is glorious, rich, and glowing. I’d like that to be true of my “autumn” in life as well.

As a matter of fact, my desire is to be true to the very end, like Paul was, no matter when that end occurs. When Paul penned the words, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race,” he was most likely around 60 years old and very near to martyrdom. He didn’t experience much “winter” in his life, but died in “autumn.” But Oh How He Lived! As I examine these joy-filled words from a man close to death, this is what I learn and want to apply:

  • Live fully and vigorously. Paul called it a fight and a race. You need strength for both. You need to train and be disciplined in order to get the most out of your body. Lord, help me to care for this body You fashioned for me. Help me to exercise, eat well, and train myself to run the race marked out for me … by You.
  • Keep the faith. The word “keep” means “to retain in one’s possession or power” according to Merriam Webster. I’ve seen too many dear ones walk away from their faith. It grieves me to the core. Paul kept the faith, even through suffering and eventually a martyr’s death. He retained it. He did not let it go. Now, thankfully, God also will not let me go! But still, I want to keep my faith, holding on to the Lord Jesus in whom my faith is placed. Even when or if I enter winter and can do very little, Lord, help me cling to You!
  • Expect a reward for a life well lived. It’s okay to be glad about that. The Bible tells us, over and over, to look forward to rewards in Heaven. So … I will. That crown of righteousness? I’ll know full well how I received it—by the precious blood of my Savior. And I can’t wait for the joy when I can lay it at His feet, paying tribute to the One who kept me and helped me serve in kingdom work! Father, I don’t really understand the crown that is coming, and I surely know I don’t deserve it. But thank You for reward and blessing ahead. Thank You for the joy that is set before those who choose to follow You and run that race and fight that fight.
  • Long for His appearance. I love the yearning anticipation that builds as I grow older and my leaves start turning colors! You see, I’m not going to die. I’m going to see the One who set the stars in place and who formed me in my mother’s womb. I join a host of others who long for His appearance, and I desire to finish strong in my remaining years. Like the leaves that turn their brightest before they drop and fall, I want to be a vibrant and bold splash of color in the autumn of my life, beautiful inside, and always pointing to the One who made me so.

Lord Jesus, our hearts yearn for You. Help us to press on, finishing the race with the strength that You give us, swerving neither to the left nor to the right, but keeping the faith. Only with Your help. Only by Your grace. Amen.

You are loved,
Sharon

 

 

Sweet Selah Ministries

Vision
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service

Mission 
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)

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2 Responses to “Autumn Strong”

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  1. Jackie Turner says:

    Sharon,
    I have to tell you you are beautiful inside and out.
    You are one of the women in my life I look up to. God
    Has given you so many precious gifts. Proud to call you Friend.

    • Sharon Gamble says:

      Jackie, you are going to make me cry all over again. Thank you, friend. And same to you! Inside and out. Love you.

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