I once was a PE teacher for a small Christian school in Colorado. With that position came a stream of coaching assignments. I loved the job and coaching. Until I was wrangled into coaching track. I knew nothing about track!
The team was co-ed with a high hormonal teen boy and girl combination. I learned a lot that season about humility, chaperoning, and yes … track.
My brother ran track, so I called him for advice. In the most loving, big brother approach, he simply said, “Run the hell out of them. When they’re exhausted make them run again.” I did just that.
That spring, we were not the stars of our league, not even close but I … we made it through the season. We managed to celebrate a few ribbons, a few romances, and my brother’s wisdom.
Oddly, his advice has stuck with me, not as an athletic pursuit or a life lesson on persistence but as a remembrance of a life and death race, I once ran and thought I had lost.
It all began the fall of my sophomore year, when my dear, hilarious, beautifully sarcastic mother died at the age of 45. She was far too young to leave this earth. It was far too early for me, her youngest daughter to lose her. I was barely 14 when I had to say goodbye.
I slithered through the stages of grief without support because my support had just been laid to rest. I became resentful, rebellious, and uncontrollable. The sliver of hope I had with God was shattered. I made sure it was shattered. I pushed everyone away, including God. I couldn’t understand why a God, who was supposed to love me could take away my Mom. How’d He take her at a time that I needed her the most? How does a girl become a woman without her mom? Why me? How could God do this to me? Why didn’t He care? My spiral of I … I…I..Me …Me…Me spun into a new world of drugs, alcohol, and the sexual revolution. I lived and loved my new liberated life of sin.
I was happy, I thought, and the life I chose was good … at least for a season. (Hebrews 11:25 … enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.) My new mantra became, “I don’t need God and He doesn’t need me.” But God did need me and He gently but relentlessly pursued me. Every corner I turned, every door I opened He patiently called on me.
One winter night my friend and dealer invited me to her house to meet some new friends. Excited, I accepted knowing that it meant a free high. I knocked on her door only to be greeted by a Bible study. A Bible study!? What? My friend, my dealer had abandoned me. She had fallen for the lies I once believed. I politely listened for a moment or two then broke out as fast as I could. How could she do this to me? What would I do now? I needed a new friend. I needed a new dealer. I…I…I.
Yes, I heard His voice that night, felt His presence. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t a lie but I shoved His gentleness away from me and ran! I ran as fast and hard as I could to escape His voice, His love.
The Good Shepherd hadn’t given up on me at all. Weeks later I went with several friends to our favorite bar. We went almost every night. But this night was different. Sitting there, chucking beer after beer. I kept hoping the buzz I felt would soon make me numb, when a small group of unfamiliar faces came in, invading our territory. They wandered from table to table. What were they up to?
I was prepared to fight as I glared at them as they bounced about. My glare must have challenged them, as they soon bee-lined it to my table. Anger built inside me.
There was no fight, no challenge. They sat down and started talking. Their small talk toppled my overwhelming defenses. We chatted about current events, the weather, the Broncos. I felt foolish – they were nice, friendly, and informed. Until they lowered the boom with one pointed question, “Do you know where you’d go if you died tonight?”
Fury returned and rushed my mind. I instantly felt that fight or flight mentality, as I rose to my feet And blurted, “I don’t know and I don’t care.” I ran out of my drinking sanctuary. Why can’t those people leave me alone? Why are they bothering me? Why me? Me…me…me. I saw their sincerity. I knew He had sent them. I felt His love but I stifled it, pushing it deep behind the walls I’d meticulously built. I ran and ran to protect those walls designed to capture the comfort of anger as it padded my heart from His penetrating voice. Why couldn’t He leave me be?
I tried to out run the Lord that season. I stifled, pushed, built buffering walls as high as needed.
The more I heard His call the harder I ran! The Bible tells us to run the good race, I was running a race but the race was not good.
I learned that you cannot our run the Lord.
I didn’t have a coach applying the wisdom of “Run the hell out of them. When they’re exhausted make them run again.” But thats what I did. I ran and hid from The Father and when I was exhausted I ran again. Thankfully His loving persistence triumphed, destroying the bitterness and hatred that enveloped my being, ending the me..me..me pity party I so enjoyed.
Yes, I ran… I ran the hell right out of my life. I continue to run, not to desperately hide from Him but today I desperately run into His sheltering, forgiving arms of grace. Daily I run into the arms that shattered deceiving walls, crushed addictive behaviors, and rebuilt a destroyed life. I once ran and lost. Or at least I thought I’d lost but I won. I won with His power, His grace, His accepting love. Acts 20:24 says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?” Because of God’s unwavering love I, indeed have won the prize.
My friends that are praying for lost sons, daughters, sisters and brothers, please know that God is in the race for the long haul. He is THE Good Shepherd and will not let one stray away.
Keep the faith, my friend, God’s power will prevail.