Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Running To Win

Before going to bed last night I had decided I would get up at 4:30am to run on my treadmill (crazy, I know, but I do enjoy starting my day with a jog).  I laid out my workout clothes, socks and tennis shoes on my bathroom sink.  This is a must to ensure I actually stick with my plan.  I set my alarm clock, collapse into my bed with my laptop and do some photo editing before actually shutting down for the night.  Eleven o’clock, lights out. 
Five and a half short hours later, that annoying alarm disturbs the morning quiet.  I drag myself out of the bed and stumble to the bathroom, splash cold water on my face to feel somewhat bright eyed and bushy tailed and throw on my work out attire.  
I have three sticky notes stuck to my treadmill with some scriptures that keep me motivated and encouraged when I’m trudging away on the hamster wheel.  As I begin my warm up, I read over these scriptures several times and read them over and over again throughout my entire run.  The battle to keep running is all in my head so these verses are the ammunition to fight off the voice inside that says “I can’t do this.”

1 Corinthians 9:27 ~ “I beat my body and make it my slave.”
Hebrews 12:11 ~ “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.  Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 ~ “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”
I had intentions of creating a really pretty motivational sign with 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Run in such a way as to get the prize”, to stick on the wall that I stare a hole in when I’m running.  But I didn’t have time and really wanted something else to look at so I made this instead:

During my run, I felt the Lord really impressing on my heart to focus on what running a race and running to win really means.  So as I paced my strides and regulated my gasping, er...breathing, I set my heart on listening.  This may seem really elementary but it really stirred my heart this morning.  
Hebrews 12:1 ~ “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  The race marked out for us...The race marked out for us.......
Every time I’ve read this verse before, I’ve envisioned athletes during the Summer Olympics lined up on the starting line, anxiously waiting to hear the gunshot that will catapult them into their full sprint; running hard to be the first one to cross the finish line.  But this morning, I saw something completely different.  Hebrews 12:1 references “the race marked out for US”.  We aren’t racing against each other.  We’re not competing with anyone else.  You are the only competitor in YOUR race.  This doesn’t mean you are alone on the journey.  You have a crowd of witnesses cheering you on, believing in you.  Your race will not look like someone else’s race.  Your race is YOUR race.  My race is MY race.  It’s not about being the first to cross the finish line.  It’s just about finishing YOUR race.  We each have our own finish line.  The goal is simply to finish and finish well.  
What has your race looked like so far?  What have been your greatest achievements?  Your greatest struggles?  What peaks and valleys have you faced on your journey?  How have you grown?  How has your faith been strengthened?  Every part of that is what makes your race unique. 
Over the past several years, I had found myself sure of the race I was running; confident that I was running well.  The scenery was beautiful; the air fresh and clean.  Maybe I was running with my head so high up in the pretty white fluffy clouds that I didn’t see the brick wall coming.  I noticed the terrain changing and the sky growing somewhat dim but I suppose I blame ignoring the warning signs on optimism.  Surely, the clouds will part and this was just a small bump in the road.  However, a mountain as high as Mount Everest loomed before me.  The earth beneath my feet turned into quick sand.  Blue skies were overshadowed by darkness.  Deep darkness.  I tried to tackle the mountain but it was dark and I didn’t know which way to turn.  Everything that I had ever been sure of in my life was suddenly on trial in my own mind.  What was truth?  Had everything I ever been taught my entire life a lie?  Jesus, are You really real?  Question after question after question flooded my heart and mind day.after.day.after.day.  In this moment, it was the closest I have ever been to understanding how Jesus felt on the cross when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?”  I broke.  I cried.  I grieved.  I screamed.  I beat the ground.  I mourned the loss of what once was and I struggled to find the new.  But all I found was more darkness.  I clawed at the dirt beneath me, searching for something solid.  I searched for the true God.  I tried to shake everything I’d ever been taught by man and reached for God’s Word alone to discover who this God I claimed to have lived for all my life really was.  As I fed on His Word in the newness of the place I’d found myself in, there sat before me a mirror.  As He revealed His truth to me, I saw the real person I had been most of my life.  And I was appalled.  Sickened.  Disgusted.  I questioned how God could ever love me.  I was prideful.  Selfish.  Critical.  Judgmental.  If you weren’t doing it “this way” or if you didn’t believe “this way” then you were wrong and shame on you.  God have mercy.  And He did.  I begged His forgiveness.  Pleaded for His mercy.  Begged for His love to be poured out in my heart like never before.  He said, “I already did.  It’s already yours.  And there’s more than enough for you My daughter.”  And I broke.  And I wept.  And I loved in a way I never thought I could.  I tasted and saw that the Lord was good.  So, so, SO good.  Through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit working IN my life, I reached the top of that mountain.  I surveyed the beauty that could be seen from the mountaintop.  I looked back down into the valley of the shadow of death that I had just been set free from and I felt the weight of the accomplishment I had just achieved.  I boldly faced that valley and whispered, “Thank you.  Thank you for the lessons learned.  Thank you for the conditioning.  Thank you for testing my faith.  My character.  My existence.  Thank you.”  And in this very moment, I am building a memorial, at the top of that mountain, to the God who brought me out of the darkness and into His marvelous light!!!  
Now, I’m back to running my race.  It’s been such an incredible journey since that huge mile marker.  So many things have been happening that I finally had to buckle down and just hang on for the ride.  God has been doing exceedingly and abundantly above all that I could think or ask (Eph. 3:20) and I just stand in awe, amazement and wonder at how and why He chose me.  Who am I to be blessed this way?  Who am I to have such an incredible family, amazing husband, precious daughter, covenant friends and a phenomenal church family?  Who am I to run THIS race, Jesus?  I don’t see the finish line ahead.  And I don’t see what lies around that next corner but I am confident that Jesus is faithful to finish what He’s started and I’m confident that He will never leave me nor forsake me as I run this out.  I have no doubt there will be high and low seasons.  There will be seasons when I don’t feel like running and I hope a walk will be sufficient to just keep me moving forward.  And I know there will be a fork in the road and I will have to choose the next path.  But I know the Holy Spirit will guide me into all truth and He will light the path I should take.  I’ll be very honest and transparent with you all.  Right now, I’m not thrilled about my race.  I know God is on the verge of doing something new but as I wait that out, until it becomes clear, I feel like I’m on the hamster wheel; running but going nowhere.  And its not easy.  And I cry....because, I’m a girl and that’s what we do, we cry....a lot!  But I love when I’m on that hamster wheel and God drops a word in my heart that lifts my spirits and reignites the determination within to plow through.  I’m going to keep running my race.  And while I’m running my race, I don’t want to see others just standing by.  I want to push them into their own race; their own purpose; doing what God created them to do.  
So, let’s Run to Win!!  What is our reward?  Heaven!  Eternity with Jesus!  And that makes it worth it all!  If we keep our eyes on the prize, Jesus, and keep running toward the finish line, the cares, worries, materialistic things of this world are meaningless. 
“Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith!”
Much love,
Christy  :o)

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