It’s been close to a year now; the day I laid down everything.
I was running pretty much a full on marathon pace. I was set, focused and steady. My breathing was good and my head was clear. I had set my sights on the long haul, when out of the blue I was sidelined.
I didn’t see it coming. I felt good, strong and comfortable. Every stride was perfect, I felt like a machine ready to tackle this race.
Of course there were stones that were scattered and thrown. Twisted roots in the dirt rising to make me stumble. You know, those things that are meant for harm, yet are waved off and roll right off your back. I felt like a million bucks.
I knew how to run this race and I was good, or so I thought, at adjusting my stride.
But apparently this time I failed. I kept running head on and I failed to adjust my stride and found myself lying on the sidelines…gasping for air.
This- was totally new. There was only one other time I remembered sitting on the sideline trying to catch my breath and pick myself up to finish the race…One. I had consistently trained…daily. But that was not enough; or at least that was my thought.
Maybe it was me. Maybe I was not enough. It’s amazing what begins to sweep through your mind to find a home.
What takes place when you believe you are not enough? What happens when you’ve trained and pushed and did everything exactly by the Book, yet something still tears. What happens when you fall out of the race because you failed to adjust your stride?
What happens when others wonder about you…about the deep down you that loves Jesus…what happens to the mind, soul and spirit?
A crisis of faith, that is what happens. And it is not so much a crisis against God, it is a crisis against yourself. Suddenly, you no longer believe you know Him. Suddenly you question your ears and your heart; you wonder if you ever heard Him. You wonder if what you and He had was really a relationship….maybe it was all a fake. Maybe you are a fake…
And then, there is no stride to be adjusted…you are sidelined.
So there you sit on the perimeter of the track and you lay everything down. EVERYTHING.
You lay down your church, your bible, your devotions, your prayers; you lay down your faith. You put it away to try to find what is real. And finding what is real means you have to get off the sidelines. Real is never found on the perimeter.
But first, you must sit under the broom tree for a while. You must question the One who probably sidelined you. You must complain and remove yourself from the mainstream for there is no one left…you thought you were on the right track, but that asphalt digs deep in your skin when you fail to adjust your stride; when you are running a blind race.
One year later, yes one… you get up. You pray. You read. You test your heart. You test your head. You see if your ears can hear.
And then, if you feel safe…if the road is clear… you begin to walk.
Not run, walk.
For if you are going to get back in the race, you cannot run blind as you used to. You know to be very mindful, informed, and wise, if you are going to run this thing. You learn to be acutely aware of the other runners; the proximity to you, will they make you stumble, will they leave you behind because all they want is to get ahead of you…or will they adjust their stride too? Will they run with you?
You learn to listen to the sound of your footfall on the pavement. Does it sound right…does the clap of your shoe sound harsh or does it sound light? You focus on your breathing…is it too fast and shallow, or are you steady, sure, and rhythmic; breathing in time with your stride? You become alerted to your arm swing. Are they loose and not tight? Are your hands unclenched? Are they held close to your body, or are they flailing in haphazard motion causing more harm than good?
We are called to run the race; our own race not someone else’s. We are called to run with our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors. We are called to be an encourager and not a stumbling block. We are called to be humble and not proud. We are called to give drink to those thirsty. We are called to stay in the race and persevere to the end. We are called not to lose hope or faith.
And sometimes, we are called to lay everything down, and to search out what to pick up again. We are called to weed out the tares in our own life and faith, search the scriptures and call out to the One who knows our name and our inmost being. We are to be ready in season and out of season…
And we are called to play by the rules…to run as if only one will receive the crown.
We are called to adjust our stride so we may finish the race marked out for us, so when that Day comes, we may hear…