Last April, Mike and I participated in Step Out for Lupus where they offered a choice between a 5k run and a 3k walk. As I was aiming to prepare for the 8k ALS Run only 6 few weeks after, I decided this would be a good stepping stone and motivator, and of course for great cause and in support of a friend.
Nike has come up with this fantastic invention that magically communicates between your shoes and your iPhone, allowing you to track your distance, time and speed. Anytime you want to know where you’re at, you can just hit the home button, and it will immediately give you a mini progress report. With that information you can keep on, speed up, or slow down depending on your goal. I didn’t have this fabulous contraption on me that day. I had figured that the course would be marked out.
Being 18 weeks pregnant, I wasn’t trying to break any records, just get it done, preferably without walking or collapsing. I started off slow in order to pace myself and make sure I didn’t run out of gas before the end. As I was running, I started looking for signs so I could give myself a much needed pep talk about how far I’d come and how I was almost to the finish.
I kept running. No signs. Just more path. I approached someone who resembled the closest thing to an official race person. They were holding an arrow telling me that I was, at the very least, heading in the right direction. As I approached, I breathlessly asked, “Do you know how much longer?” They looked confused which confused me. Simple question, right? They shrugged and said, “You’re on the 5k route!” Thanks tips.
Never mind, I’ll ask the next person. I continued running.
Not too long after, I saw another person holding an arrow, again telling me to keep going in the same general direction.
“Do you know how much longer?”
“You’re on the 5k route!” Shrug. Smile.
Wow, thanks. Does no one here know what’s going on?
By this point, our friend Dan had caught up to me. His goal was to “at least” keep up to the pregnant lady and that he did. We were getting a little weary and were trying to guesstimate how much longer. I knew that this day was probably particularly difficult for him so my focus shifted from my own fatigue to making sure he didn’t give into his.
I managed to huff and puff a few words. You’re doing great. Hang in there. She’d be so proud of you right now. You can do this.
As we were both growing increasingly weary, unsure of how much of the journey was behind us, and how much we still had left, we continued to pace ourselves, slow and steady. We had just crossed the second bridge when I looked up and was surprised to see what looked like the finish line.
There was no containing my excitement. With the new knowledge that we were just about there, I picked up speed and challenged him to do the same. The realization that we were so close to the end gave me the extra surge I needed to finish well. We crossed the finish line and I couldn’t help but think, if only I’d know we were so close, maybe I could’ve run a little faster!
A couple of weeks after the run, I was feeling particularly tired. You may have experienced something similar. Not the tired that can be corrected with a night of good sleep but a weariness of the soul. I found myself asking God, how much longer?
This season of my life has brought more challenges that don’t seem to have a finish line in sight. I’m a doer. I like to have a start and a finish. But instead there are only arrows telling me to continue on this same path.
I found myself lying on the couch one Friday night having a very intense cry as the reality of the “marathon” likeness of life sunk in. When you’re used to a series of short distances, a marathon can be daunting. Parenting (though I absolutely adore it) has no real finish line. Each day has a start and a finish but I don’t get to check it off my to-do list. It’s going to a wonderful but long haul. A few friends of mine were facing some very intense hardships without a finish line in sight. Real life.
Sometimes we can bear down and endure when we know we’re just about to the finish.
But what about when you’re growing weary and there's no end in sight?
I was suddenly very aware that I’d been trying to run on my own very limited and easily worn out strength. I’d been relying on my “reserves” and not going to the well of living water each day to get my fill. In trying to be a teacher, I’d forgotten to be a student. In trying to make sure everyone around me was getting what they needed, I’d forgotten to stay still long enough to let God nourish my soul. I was in the middle of a race, out of gas, and the finish line was no where in sight.
In the days and weeks that followed, God reminded me of His solution from Isaiah 40:28-32:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
I felt like he was saying, I know you’re tired, but you need to know that I’m not. I don’t get tired or weary and I will give you MY strength. If you hope in me, I will renew your strength so you can not just walk, but run and soar without becoming faint.
I thought back to the run I had recently completed. As per His usual, God was piecing together a nice lesson for me through these events.
1. We need people to run alongside, but we also need those to run alongside us.
It might sound the same but it’s not. I was growing tired in that race, but as soon as Dan came alongside me, my focus shifted from my tired legs to being a cheerleader. It didn't change the task that lay before me in the slightest but as I started to encourage him and think about what a challenge that day must have been for him, my course seemed to pale in comparison. God places people in our lives to pour into and walk alongside but it doesn't exempt us from needing someone to do the same for us. My pastor was preaching around the same time about making sure that you have those in your life that you’re pouring into, but also those who are pouring into you. Of course, God is the ultimate cup filler, but if you don’t have anyone who’s pouring into you- spiritually and emotionally, ask Him to send someone!
2. He has marked out my race and He has and IS what I need for the journey.
He’s never surprised by what life brings my way. After all, He brings it my way! He knows what’s ahead, what I will need and how I might be tempted to get off course. In some seasons he gives me constant feedback, like my lovely Nike app, but in other seasons, He may choose to be quiet, possibly to exercise my faith. When I ask how much longer, He gives me is a little arrow which tells me keep going in this general direction and reminds me to make regular pit stops at His bottomless fueling station. I don't need to be able to see the finish line in order to run the race well. I just need Him. He has strength and understanding that will not run out, no matter how long the journey, that He is ready and willing to give it to me. Why not go?
3. Running on my own strength always ends the same way.
This one definitely isn't rocket science but for some reason, I keep having to learn it over and over again. I so badly want to run with perseverance the race marked out for me but I cannot do it on my own. But I suppose that’s the whole message of the gospel. I never can on my own. That’s why I need Jesus. In His death and resurrection He has provided for my every need. I’m continually made aware that I can’t. He can. I’m not. He is. I run out. He is always enough. I am weak. He is strong.
Weariness is something we all experience but there’s a couple of ways we deal with it. Sometimes we find a temporary fix, wallpaper it over and move on, never truly finding rest for our soul. There’s a much better alternative. Cry out to Jesus first. It is the only place you will truly find rest for your soul. That night during my uncontrollable cry, my poor hubby was trying to figure out what was wrong. I tried to explain that I wasn't even entirely sure yet! He offered to cancel his plans and stay home but as tempted as I was to take him up on that offer, I knew that what I first needed was a filling of the presence of God. Nothing else would truly satisfy my soul, but of course, I welcomed a hug!
Confess your need for Jesus. Believe that renewed strength comes from placing your hope in the Lord. Believe that He gives strength to the weak. Believe and trust that no matter how long or difficult the journey is that you’re on, He has the ability to make you soar.
‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’
“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.