When I was a little girl, my mother would tell me to hold my head up. Whether I was being scolded for some offense or another or whether I was trying to articulate something to someone I perceived as being more powerful than myself, my mother would instruct, “Hold your head up.”
Sometimes, the command would be followed by an “and speak loud enough for them to hear you” or a “look him in the eye.” Sometimes, it stood alone with the firmness of her glare goading me along. My mother required this of me even when she was the person I was most afraid of speaking my truth to. She didn’t have time for me to will myself into confidence. She didn’t tolerate me kowtowing and bowing out of life. She expected me to make something of myself, and she knew it would be nearly impossible to do so without a straightness of back and ironness of will.
I’m jogging on the track. My endurance is that of a stuffed pig, but I’m jogging on the track. Every 100 meters or so, I have to stop and walk for a while to give my lungs a reprieve, but I’m jogging on the track. I gaze around at the others, who like me, have decided that early mornings are best for this thing called exercise. Some are full-on running. Others just limp along. Me, I’m somewhere in the middle.
I’ve been at this for about a month now. At first, just walking half a mile would leave me gasping for air. Now, I’m jogging on the track. Short distances by real runner standards, but I’m proud of my progress. The sun rising to prominence in the sky doesn’t intimidate me like it did a few weeks ago. I’m learning how to pace myself. I’m learning the humidity of a summer morning in Chicago is best met before the sun bakes directly overhead, so my timetable has shifted, and I’m jogging on the track.
At first, I look down, watching each foot pop in and out of view with the red surface of the track and it’s white lines the canvas of my journey. Then somehow, seemingly out of nowhere, I hear, “Hold your head up!” I pick up my head. That’s hard to do without straightening my back, too, so I do that, and all of a sudden, my lungs can handle a bit more of a push. “Go a few more yards this time,” I prod. I’m jogging more on the track.
I see birds and trees and clouds. I smell the grass and flowers. With chest out, arms pumping, and head up, my whole perspective is changing. I feel more confident. I feel more free.
Freedom, how often we take you for granted! We stand on the sidelines of life, allowing circumstances to overshadow the control we actually have.
Armed with an upward gaze, I say to myself, “I am the most successful person I know. Whatever I think is what manifests in my life.” I mean it, and I own that every weak-minded thought lays bricks of weakness in me. Every liberating thought builds me toward true freedom, and I convince myself that the reaped narrative of my life is determined directly by what I allow myself to sow.
Liberation comes with face meeting the world head on. It’s a lesson I was taught standing in the kitchen of my youth with my mom’s finger gently nudging my chin up and compelling my eyes to peer intently into hers. And it’s a lesson I’m learning anew as I harness momentum in different spheres of my life. With an upheld head, I dictate my future. I’m not limited or oppressed by what happens to me. I see possibilities as inevitabilities. I embrace them. I don’t make excuses for why they won’t happen.
We all have doubts, but it is those with heads held high who conquer them, pushing through anyway to realize success. It is the successful people who chip away at insecurity and fear one footfall at a time, keeping their eyes firmly fixed on the goal, who ultimately see their dreams come true. And to the Christian, with eternal salvation as the desired end, this is how we should approach life. Maintaining heaven as the goal, every step we take–no matter how scary, tough, inconvenient, or alienating, (or any other adjective that basically means an excuse for inaction will follow)–should be executed with the firm belief that we will succeed. The care and confidence needed to boldly face this world, come what may, for the followers of Christ is driven by the dogged pursuit of salvation.
So to the heaven-bound, I say: We cannot be both slaves to the world and followers of Jesus. We must operate under His blessed assurance. Keep jogging on the track of life. Don’t stand still. Don’t get comfortable. Push a little harder each day. Go a little farther. And for heaven’s sake, HOLD YOUR HEAD UP!