“Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” Hebrews 12:2
It’s winter (I use that term loosely in Arizona!) but it’s 5 a.m. and it’s pitch dark. The path I usually run became so boring, I decided on an alternate route. It takes me in front of a deserted school. Who knew this road would have ZERO activity on it and not a single street light?!
It’s a deep, deep darkness.
Cold fear prickles the nape of my neck.
I can barely see the pavement in front of me and when a car drives by, the headlights blind me.
Even light seems treacherous when you are engulfed in darkness.
This dark, shadowy stretch of unknown is only about ½ mile. I know street lamps will light my way once I make it to the corner. “Will I make it to see those lights around the corner? Come to think of it, no one knows where I am this morning”… As these thoughts taunt me, a car blazes by and I nearly stumble over a fallen tree branch. –I pick my feet up higher.
I think about hungry coyotes, gnarly javelina, and other hidden predators as I suddenly recall every episode of Criminal Minds. –My breathing accelerates and I increase my pace.
I step further into the roadway in hopes that fewer things will trip me up. I nearly jump out of my skin as I hear the “crunch” of something off to my left. I focus on where the sound came from and see a dark figure walking what appears to be a dog.
Just as I am about to completely freak out, I come to the corner, turn and see the lighted street stretch out before me. –The pace of my heart and my running form return to normal.
Funny thing, this lighted path is where I let my guard down and stumbled up a sidewalk ramp. I scraped my hand and knee and jarred my back out of whack. Hmm…
Just like this run, you can be gliding by on your normal path and easily get tripped up by the human tendency to fall back into bad habits. And it usually hurts.
A few days later when I head out for my morning run, I head straight for the street with the school; the “dark and scary street.”
I tell myself, “If Lara Bowman can run in Colorado’s below zero temps, at 0-dark thirty, every day to honor her son in boot camp, then I can face this!”
I refuse to fear this time. I approach the black abyss and pray to God, “Protect Lara from freezing to death on her run and protect me from this fear of what could be in this darkness. Be our shield and go before us. Please light the way.”
The more I run that “shadowy run,” and refuse to fear that darkness, the stronger I feel.
Day after day, as Lara braves the freezing temperatures; motivated by her love and a promise, she understands how much farther she can push herself.
If we avoid our fears, or are not willing to do the work, we are held back from growing stronger and accomplishing amazing things.
Beyond protecting us on our running adventures, I believe that God honors each of us when we are courageous enough to face our own inner dark places. Whether it’s a past mistake, a recurring sin or addiction, or the associated worry, doubts and shame; if there’s anything making us stumble and keeping us from a full and abundant life in Christ, He will help us conquer it.
And, the more we rely the light of Christ to guide us through the darkness, the stronger Christ’s power can be revealed in us.
“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 1 Corinthians 12:9
And this new power and strength is intended for the good of all. It not only empowers us to face the dark places in ourselves, but also emboldens us to help others struggling in darkness.
There are many people in desperate need of some light. They (and you) may not know it, but you might be the only light that they know. You might be the person to encourage them through their dark time and get them back on their path.
And the hard work of getting through those dark places reminds us to treasure the ease of “walking in the light.” Remain vigilant for the sin and old bad habits that so easily entangle, (as well as those sidewalks that sneak up and can cause us to stumble when we get too comfortable!)
“Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.” Isaiah 60:2
May you be fearless and courageous as you allow Jesus to en-lighten your race.