As I was writing Let’s Run!, the Lord led me to actually train and participate in a 5k run. I didn’t really know why God wanted me to physically run, but nothing else (but God) could have made me do it! I don’t like to run (even though both my parents had been avid runners when I was growing up). So, as soon as that race was over in 2014, I hung up my running shoes.
God had definitely spoken many things to me during the training for and participation in the 5k. Most of those experiences are shared in the Bible study, so I don’t want to spoil the story for those of you who haven’t read it. (Although I don’t mind making a shameless plug for the book now. If you haven’t studied Let’s Run!, I highly encourage it.) Jesus often used parables or stories to teach valuable lessons to His disciples, and Paul used the analogy of physical training often in his letters. Although the training for the 5k was difficult, I enjoyed the race and learned much from the Lord through it. I just never intended to do it again!
So…imagine my surprise when my son’s girlfriend Moriah recently asked me if I wanted to run a 5k with them at Liberty University. My first thought was, “I don’t run.” But my second thought was, “If I can’t run, I can walk.” I’m teaching P.E. this year at school, and we have been walking a mile every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I only had one week to prepare, but I knew I could at least add some running to my walking and be in good enough shape to make it for 3.1 miles.
So I told her yes.
Running the Race
I began to walk/run each day at school, increasing my time so that my body would be a little more in shape not only for the longer distance, but also for the hilly terrain of Lynchburg. I knew I wouldn’t be able to run 3.1 miles with no training, but the race was a benefit for an organization called Freedom 424, which brings awareness to sex trafficking and exploitation of women. I wanted to participate, even if I walked the entire race.
As I got up Saturday morning–race day–I did my quiet time as usual, and I felt in my spirit that God had another lesson for me in this race. I began to consider the lessons in Let’s Run!, the message of the book, and all that God had shown me then. Let’s Run! is about faith, throwing off sin and hindrances, and running with perseverance–eyes on Jesus and the finish line. It’s about staying true to our calling, not turning aside or being distracted by the world or the enemy, and not giving up.
As I sat before the Lord Saturday morning, I felt the Lord say, “Now I want you to focus on your walk. You’ve shown me you’re willing to run–to train, to prepare, to stay focused, to finish the course. Now are you willing to walk in love, to walk in the Spirit, to walk with me every minute of the day?” I wasn’t sure where the Lord was going with all of this. I mean, if you’re willing to run, walking should be a breeze, right?
Walking in Love
Moriah was running late, so Josiah and I began the race together. We started out at a slow jog, the path taking us downhill. We jogged together, talking and catching up on things. As the course began to take us uphill, I slowed my jog to a walk and we continued to chat and enjoy ourselves. My husband called and told us that Moriah had arrived and the two of them were running to catch up with us. So we slowed our pace a little and watched for them, continuing our conversation. When we came to a downhill section, we would pick up and jog a little, then slow back to a walk. Finally, Moriah caught up with us, and we continued walking and talking.
I was having a great time! I was thinking, “This is no big deal, it’s for a great cause, I’m enjoying hanging out with the kids, and I’m getting a little exercise.” Win-win!
Finally, we came to a 2-mile marker, and Josiah and Moriah decided to run the rest of the way. Alone with my thoughts, I began to notice how tired I was getting, how hot it had grown, and that I still had another mile to go. I decided to pick up the pace a little, but the hills were tough. Soon I was sweating profusely and my heart was racing. The race had suddenly become difficult. But then I came upon some volunteers holding up signs of encouragement, and I got a new burst of energy. I decided to jog a little.
The last mile I was alone, yet I felt that God was with me. Each time I grew tired and wanted to give up, more volunteers would pop up with signs of encouragement.
When my legs felt they would give way beneath me, I heard this verse in my heart:
“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed” (Hebrews 12:12-13, NIV 84).
In other words, God was speaking to me from the very passage I wrote about in Let’s Run! by saying to endure hardship and discipline from the Lord. Why? So it will strengthen our feeble selves, enabling us to help others. Wow!
I’ll admit. Things have been a little slow since I released Let’s Run! I sold a few hundred books, spoke a few times, but this ministry didn’t turn out like I expected. I’ve already written another Bible study, but God hasn’t opened a door yet for it to be published. So I’m just waiting on Him, trusting His timing. And now God is encouraging me to get back in the race. I don’t have to always run! It’s okay to sometimes walk–the key is to walk in love and in the Spirit. As I focus on my love walk, God is encouraging me with His Word and leading me where He wants me to go.
The closer I got to the end of the race, the more encouragers there were along the course. Finally, I turned into the concourse beneath the stadium for the homestretch. Triumphant music was coming through the loudspeakers. A big screen overhead was projecting scenes of girls being ministered to by Freedom 424. I felt God saying, “This is how you will enter heaven–to the sounds of triumph and the display of every person you ministered to in my name. Great will be your reward if you finish well and do not give up!”
I rounded the bend and there was my family on the other side of the finish line. With my eyes on the goal, I ran as hard as I could across that line, receiving a gold medal as I crossed into the arms of my family. You would think I had run a Spartan race. I was breathing hard and sweating like I was finishing the Boston Marathon. It was just 3.1 miles and I walked most of it. But that last mile, I gave it all I had.
When the race was over, my husband Kenneth told me that they sent us the wrong way, and we had actually gone 3.5 miles. You know, sometimes the journey takes us farther than we want to go, but as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, He will lead us on to victory. It’s not about the speed or the hills or how pretty we look at the end. It’s not about the delays and detours that sometimes discourage us. It’s only about how we walked.
Am I willing to endure hardship? Can I handle discipline? Will I follow God, even if He calls me to something I’m not trained or prepared for? Am I content to walk when God says walk and run when God says run? Will I be willing to stand on the sidelines and just be an encourager to someone else? And when the last mile is long and uphill, will I continue to press on?
God has a race for all of us to run. The days are short, and He needs us geared up, warmed up, and ready to go. Will we answer the call to step outside our comfort zone and strengthen ourselves in His Word so we can get out there and bring healing to those who are lame (the lost), those who are struggling to walk (baby Christians), and encourage others in the race (mature Christians)?
Come on, y’all! We can do this. Just lace up.