When No One Comes to the Rescue

 

“We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5


 

I recently returned to jogging and went out for a run on a Saturday morning with the sun high in the cloudless sky and 1000% humidity.  It was a brilliant move highly recommended by elite athletes everywhere.

A few miles in I arrived at a place in the road with a prolonged, steady incline that is demoralizing on a good day but was absolutely kicking my tail on this awful one.  My sweat-soaked brow and unstable legs harshly reminded me that not only am I not an elite athlete but rather a 47-year-old woman who does not have to be doing this to herself.  So, I did what all pros recommend when they hit a wall – I called Luke to ask him to come pick me up and also bring snacks.

What the pros don’t tell you is what to do when your rescuer doesn’t answer the phone.  After a couple of tries it became abundantly clear no one was coming to save me.  All hopes of Diet Dr. Pepper and Kit-Kats were dashed and it was time to figure out what to do.

I considered my options.  I could call the boys but that would mean one of them would actually have to answer the cell phone I pay for to communicate with them.  I would have hitchhiked with Jack the Ripper but not a single car passed.  I could call 911 but in my condition couldn’t remember the number.  And so, I began the long trip home by concluding there are some roads that can only be walked out with you and Jesus and did the only thing I could – put one shaky foot in front of the other.

On the trek back, I thought much about the various ways we find ourselves expecting others to be our Jesus and how bitter we can become when they don’t show up rescue us in our time of despair.  Worse yet is looking for a substitute savior that has no business being in ours.  My nephew is a tri-athlete (it doesn’t run in the family) and he told us once about race volunteers offering Gatorade to the competitors not knowing once the sugar hits their ravaged systems it makes them mess their very tight pants.  The lesson of that repulsive visual?  Though the refreshment being offered seems like an oasis in the desert, make certain the person from whom you take is an authority on the subject – both intellectually and morally – and doesn’t have an ulterior motive slanting the advice.  Though well-intentioned, “sweetened” solutions not rooted in scripture can leave us in a much worse condition than we began.

So, what do we do when we are struggling and no one is coming to save us?  Matthew 5 says we rejoice understanding this present suffering will make the next one a bit easier to endure ultimately producing a sanctified version of ourselves. Knowing we are never powerless or abandoned by the God who loves us produces hope and faith that was perhaps missing and created our neediness to begin with.

Meditating on these things, I hardly noticed that wavering steps had sped to a shuffle and the shuffle progressed to a slow jog.  Finally, home was in view and like a horse that sees the barn I kicked it up another notch to the finish line which looks a lot like my mailbox.  I turned in to the driveway to find Luke working in the yard without a clue I had ever called for help.

I’m glad he didn’t answer.

Shin Splints for God

A couple of weeks ago our church began a new Bible study called Run for God that couples spiritual endurance-themed devotions with training for a 5 K which we will run together in April.  The response has been overwhelming and in our tiny town our group looks like this:

 

run4god

 

It is a given this picture delights me.  It represents young and old, church members and community members, and those whose bodies hurt and don’t hurt.  The former outnumbers the latter if our groaned laps are any indication.  I hear a splinter cell Bible study is being formed called, “Eating Cheez-Its for Jesus”.  It has legs.  Flabby, cellulite-ridden legs but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with those because, y’all. My shins are ruined.  It’s my fault for running in bad shoes on concrete for the first week.  Luke’s knees are also a wreck so you can’t even imagine the whining that is going on especially on Saturday mornings when we meet to train at 7:30 a.m.

Luke and I are also trying to eat a little more healthy during this process.  How’s that going?  On our way home from running last night he said, “Pull in at the store so I can get some ice cream. Ummm, not to eat.  To put my knee in.”  So we soaked our knees in butter pecan and chocolate syrup and felt instantly better.

But here’s the thing, you can’t be a big baby when an 85-year-old woman is not only showing up for the Bible Study but running.  Mrs. Green has always been an inspiration to all of us for many reasons but it is confirmed now that she is the stuff of legend. We have developed a code word for whiners, “I.G.”  which are Mrs. Green’s initials.  So basically, take your ibuprofen and suck it up because if I.G. can do it, so can we.

Which is the point of this entire experience for me thus far.  We are better together.  We do things in community we can never accomplish alone.  We bear one another’s burdens, share our ankle braces and compression socks, spur each other on when we want to quit, and run the race set before us shoulder to shoulder.

Church together is a beautiful thing, shin splints and all.

(I love you, IBC. Can’t imagine the race with anyone but you.)

May We Never Forget

Remembering those whose lives were taken 13 years ago this somber day.  In my little neck of the woods, the skies are gray and drizzling. It is appropriate.

On September 11, 2001, I was pumping gas at Dodd’s Service Station when Mr. Dodd himself asked me if I had heard about the plane crashing into the World Trade Center. I had not so I walked into his office where the regulars were gathered around the television. In my naivete I  wondered how a pilot could have made such a horrible error when the second plane hit in front of our eyes and the realization of intention vs. accident began to sink in.  The ‘terrorist’ word was uttered and all innocence with it’s proclamation.  We were a nation under attack.

I broke the bewildered fellowship and drove to Chattanooga with lump in throat and legs shaking while listening to frantic newscasters speculate on what was happening and if it was over and where these people may strike next. I arrived at Sam’s Club, stepped out of the car and stood stunned and motionless with many others as the deafening engines of airplanes being grounded from every conceivable direction to the local airport felt like the end of the world. I fully expected a Boeing to land right on top of us and had that been the case, I don’t think I could have moved from that spot such was the shock.  That pause – that moment when time stopped and perfect strangers turned eyes to the sky and joined in fear and grief and sobs – remains one of the most surreal moments of my life.

For posterity’s sake….do you remember where you were that dreadful day? Feel free to share it here but more importantly, don’t ever let die those details nor fail to share them with your children. Our freedoms are a rare gift and will become rarer still if we fail to recount the cost.  Praying today those who lost loved ones feel the comfort of a God and nation who will never forget. Praying God will thwart the evil ones who sow this madness, that He would shine on them and turn them from their wickedness. And perhaps most of all, I pray He comes quickly and crushes the True Enemy under His beautiful feet.

Maranatha!

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