Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
It was one of those nights where I had a mission to get some serious introvert time in after the kids were in bed. My husband was gone to a youth convention and I was excited to have a quiet house to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my husband. But every once in awhile I enjoy a night where I can just bask in the quiet and peace of our home. And then...actual life happened and the entire plan dissipated in front of my eyes. After being super-mom and having the kids fed, bathed and in bed before eight, the train wreck began. I blame the creators of Scooby-Doo! I am serious, I want to set fire to all Scooby-Doo DVDs that exist in our county’s library.
After tuck-ins and kisses, I gathered my books, computer, and journal. I was just settling into my “me and God time” when my nine year old, who in the past has struggled with scary thoughts in the darkness of pre-sleep, came running to my room in a panic. The kind of panic you know is not going away until he is asleep.
And if I was the grace-filled, patient, compassionate mother I would like to be I would have responded in ways I can only imagine because the reality was not that pretty. Instead of patience and empathy my words were full of frustration and annoyance. It was pathetic to say the least.
Why? Because I couldn’t drown out the “poor me” thoughts and focus on the fact that God had a different plan for the night.
In my head ran these thoughts: Ugh. What? Why, God? I had this perfect night for you and me planned. I was going to read and write and tell people about your intimate involvement in our design, your blessings, your purpose in our uniquenesses. Why am I staring at my ugly selfishness and frustration toward a boy who just can’t seem to get a grip on reality at this moment? Why this? Why now? What did I do wrong?
Thankfully, God in his grace and power helped me reel back my seething tongue and gave me the strength to pull out a few blankets and let my little boy fall to sleep next to me in our room. It would have been even more lovely if I had done it with a good attitude. (Baby steps. Baby steps.) But even in our room and by my side he struggled for nearly 45 minutes to settle into peaceful sleep.
The pretense leads up to the real thing. When you are not feeling particularly friendly but you know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already. ~C.S. Lewis
Helping a child who is scared of his own thoughts is one of the hardest things on this earth to do: You can’t take away his thoughts. You can’t rationalize with him that what is real should counter what is in his imagination. You can pray for him, but you cannot make him believe he is safe. You can tell him he has control over his thoughts, but you cannot make him believe this is true. So, you comfort him, pray for him and wait for the Holy Spirit and sleep to come. (And lay in the darkness wondering why you could’ve been so stupid as to let him watch Scooby-Doo!)
Fortunately, the evening did not end there. Even in what looked like self-sabotage I had a moment that reminded me, I am not in control of my life. I don’t get to claim my messes are a result of my actions any more than I get to take the glory for the actions that lead to success. God’s sovereignty trumps both my mistakes and my successes. He gets to decide the outcome of my life, and uses both for his glory.
Ironically, when I tried to fall to sleep (I had given up on my quiet night of reading and writing and put my head to my pillow instead.), I couldn’t fall to sleep. So I found the journal on my night stand and by the light of my phone wrote down what God was speaking to my heart:
I made you a runner so that you could have a way to understand and know yourself. Metaphors of your running life live themselves out in your spiritual and actual life. How you run is how you live. I made you this way. I put this in you. I knew you would need this to know how to relate to me and others.
Do you see what you like to do when times get hard? You like to run...away. You wanted to run away tonight because what was unfolding was not what you had planned. You wanted to run away because you didn’t like the self you saw in your moment of weakness.
But even though you think you are running away, you aren’t. Because have also worked hard at training your heart to be sensitive to my beckoning. Sometimes when it looks like you are running away you are really running toward me because you have let me in. This is not the first time flight was your desired mode of operation. You have pushed through many times of struggle, many life situations you would have rather run from than persevere through.
It was me holding you back. It was me saying, turn and run this way. It was me who said, I can take your gift and discipline to run fast and strong and give you a way to use that for my kingdom. I see the training runs and the races and I am so thankful that you have let me invade your soul so that I can teach you about who you are and who I am through the gifts I have given you. And just like training is required for months leading up to a race, there will be a lot of training involved in the race you are running toward the finish line of sanctification.
But here is the thing, you need to remember that you are not in control of the training plan. I hold the perfect training plan right here in my hands. And it is a good one. Believe me. Trust me. My sovereignty is woven into every moment of your life, and you can run in the freedom of knowing I will give you what you need to reach the goals and purposes of your life. Some days you will have a hill repeats, and other days a slow and easy run: both are necessary for your wholeness.
I have said, Run to me all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28-30). Some days you will need rest. So, when I write rest (interruptions) into what you have planned, take it. I will meet you there and give you what you need for that moment to remind you I am your God and you are my daughter and I designed you on purpose for a purpose and you are capable of patience, compassion, and empathy. But it might take some practice. On those hard practice days, don’t resent my workout plan, don’t run away from me. Instead, admit that it is me who has lined up your moments and run to me and the people that I have placed alongside you on this race. You need me. You need them. Believe me.
One day the race will end and I will see you in heaven, and I am confident that I will say to you, well done my good and faithful servant. With you I am well pleased (Matthew 25:21). Keep running. It is what I made you to do.
And you can bet that I rested well that night. What God spoke to my heart I truly believe he speaks to you too. He may not use running, but he will use something in your life (hobbies, passions, vocations, delights, and etc.), to speak love and truth to you and through you. I pray that in the interruptions of your day you will sense the ways he is using the life he has given you to reveal himself to you.
Questions for Reflection:
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: