I am not a runner, at least not in a physical sense of the word. I dislike running so much, I don't even like to watch other people do it. Unless they are like Usain Bolt or the guy from Chariots of Fire, because those guys were made to run. And I love watching people do what they were created to do.
But like you, I am running a metaphorical race. I'm doing a number of things that God has called me to do: I'm a person of faith and a follower of Jesus. I'm a wife and a mom. I work at a job I enjoy that fits with my unique wiring and passions, And I'm a communicator - I write and speak, mostly to women, weaving together compelling stories with biblical truth to inspire and encourage women in every season of life. My friend, Julie, creates beauty from clay. I try to do the same with words. And when I succeed, I have this amazing sense of fulfillment that I'm doing what I was created to do. Maybe the way Usain feels when he runs.
Recently I spent a week in Michigan, speaking at women's groups and events and visiting with family and friends. It was the best week I've had in a long time. I came away with a runner's high, with my bucket filled to overflowing with gratitude and contentment. Gratitude for all God has done in my life and the opportunities he provides, and contentment for this journey I've been on for the last ten years. At times I feel like I'm on the slow track, but it's more than OK with me because the work God is doing through me is an overflow of the work he is doing in me. And in his wisdom he knows which opportunities are right for me at just the right time. Yep, I came away from my speaking engagements full of joy (which was precisely what I spoke about at all three events.)
But somewhere between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, and then somewhere between Belmont and Chicago, I lost my joy. I got tripped up in a few different ways, and it has taken me a good chunk of time to get myself back on track. As I write these words I am still working some things out.
Sometimes we need to fall so that we can take a moment, get our focus back where it needs to be, and then continue moving in the right direction. I did some things to bring on the discouragement from last week, but I also did some things to chase it away.
"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (comparison, fear, doubt, discouragement)
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (And as my sister reminded me, heaven's economy and numbers are different than earth's)
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. A little yeast (doubt, distraction, discontentment, pride, self-importance, self-obsession) works through a whole batch of dough.
You...were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.
Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. If you are led by the Spirit...you are free. (You are free!)
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
And there it is. I trip and flail when I am not in step with the Spirit. I lose my joy when I lose my focus. What about you? Where are you getting tripped up as you run your race? What do you need to do today to keep in step with the Spirit and run the race uniquely marked out for you?