Not a marathon, sprint, or relay runner - but an emotional runner. Running from LIFE. The hurt, the pain, the sadness. The uncomfortable.
The thoughts of an emotional runner look like this:
I am scared/overwhelmed/worried.
I don't know how to deal with these emotions.
I don't WANT to deal with these emotions!
I have to get away.
If I can get out of here/away from this person then I won't have to feel the pain, the hurt, the awkwardness and embarrassment.
Everything will disappear and I won't have to deal with any of it.
I will be free - and I can start fresh without any of this "stuff" weighing me down.
The problem is ...
while we run, everything, and everyone, is left behind - just as they were. Nothing changes.
And - we are carrying the largest burden with us while we sprint to the furthest point from where we started ... OURSELVES!
Running solves nothing.
It only delays the inevitable.
All of the hurts, misunderstandings, offenses, rejection, pain, loss ... they run with us. Because they are part of us.
But - they do not have to DEFINE us!
It takes time, energy, difficult conversations, forgiveness, humility, digging deep into God's Word, and copious amounts of prayer - but we can break free from the burdens that weigh us down and push us into a place of sorrow, self-pity, dejection, and shame.
We can be free!
But freedom cannot be found when we are running away from the things that overpower us.
As believers we are called to run in only one direction - TOWARDS CHRIST!
Towards the very One who can heal our wounds, bind up our broken hearts, teach us how to take off the old self and put on the new, show us how to forgive, and teach us how to love.
It is not easy. Not even the least bit.
But guess what? He does not ask us to run alone!
He is right there, hustling down the sideline screaming, "You can do this! I am with you! I understand your hurt and your pain ... I felt it myself when the world despised and rejected me. I know you want to quit. I asked My Father to let the cup pass from Me when I prayed in the garden. I GET it! Don't you see? I have asked you to run a long race, and to run it with only one focus - finishing! Stop looking around. Stop looking at your circumstances. Stop waiting for others to change. Just LOOK AT ME - and keep running! You can do this! I will help you. Every step, every gasp for air, every cramp, every injury, every scream of irritation and frustration ... I will help you. And together - we will get you across the finish line."
It took me far too long to stop running.
Even when I knew I should stop and turn around, I would not.
There was something "safe" about creating distance.
Until I stopped running and found myself utterly - alone.
Physically exhausted, emotionally spent, spiritually depleted.
Praise the Lord for forcing me to STOP.
Praise Him for placing people in my life who were willing to chase me, corral me, and point me back in the direction of healing.
Praise Him for loving me enough to discipline me, showing me that what I was really doing was disobeying - and running from - Him.
Since the day I gave up my life as an emotional runner I have laced up my running shoes dozens of times. I have even made my way to the track. But I don't run.
I feel it.
I want to take off.
I want to put hundreds of yards between myself and the hurts that are swirling around me.
But He won't let me.
He makes me face it. ALL of it.
And then He tips my chin until I am looking Him in the eye and says, "Keep your focus, Michelle. Just look at ME. Run this way. Towards Me. Do not look back. Forget what lies behind and press on to what lies ahead ... the finish line! Just look at ME. And keep running the race I have set before you."
Interestingly, the Lord has dropped countless other runners at my feet since I stopped running myself. Women, and even some young men, have looked at me through swollen, tear-stained eyes asking me if they will ever be able to stop the relentless and pointless sprint to nowhere.
And every time, my answer is YES!
Not because they can quit running on their own, but because I know the One who can make their feet stand still.
And then I take the outstretched hand and run with all my might to the feet of the Savior, dropping the exhausted brother or sister before Him, letting Him do His work.
I always joked that one day I would "turn in my running shoes" - but I have never been able to do it.
At first I thought my refusal was a safety net, an "in case of emergency" if I felt the need to run again.
But now I know.
The Lord will not let me throw them away because I need them to run after the runners!
I can't very well chase them in high-heels or flip-flops!
I have to be as sure-footed and as fast as those who are desperate and hurting and don't see any other option except running.
I ran alone for far too long.
And because I did, lonely and afraid, I will never sit on the hill watching a sister or brother take off towards the hills without chasing after them.
Sometimes we need to know someone else is willing to run with us.
And sometimes - we need to know that someone will stop us, no matter what it takes, no matter how painful - and drag us back where we belong.
At the beautiful, solid, never-moving, secure feet of a God who loves us with an everlasting love.
And to do that - I need to keep my running shoes!
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1,2