Archive for the 'Finish Your Race' Category

Finish Your Race

Thursday, February 21, 2013 posted by dpulliam

It amazes me how God communicates with us and shows us His heart as we go through our daily lives. If you seek Him, He is faithful to show Himself strong on your behalf, and give you a word in due season – just what you need to hear, exactly when you need to hear it.

About a year ago, I felt like I was standing on top of the mountain. After all, God had seen my husband and me through a long deep valley. The walk through that valley began in September, 2006, when I started having acute premature ventricular contractions (PVC’s), and took us through the economic perils of 2008, when we lost our business, and were both unemployed for many months. I’ve been through many trials in my life, but this was different. From health to finances, everything around us began to crash – all at the same time. But, although my  world seemed to be crumbling around me, I’ve never felt closer to God than I felt during that period in my life. Because as I leaned on Him to see us through, sitting in His presence to receive guidance and direction, He spoke things to my heart that would forever impact me.

One of the things He told me was, “Clean your house and write.” I won’t address the “Clean your house” part here, but the part about writing – I wasn’t sure what He wanted me to do. I’d been journaling off and on for some time, so I thought maybe I was to be more diligent about that. So I asked God, “What do you want me to write, and what am I to do with what is written? I’m trusting you to lead me in the right direction.” So I cast all my cares on Him, knowing He is faithful and would show me what He wanted me to do. And He did just that.

Step by step, God brought us up out of that deep valley. He healed my heart completely and opened doors that saw each of us on to new careers. The blessings were piling up. Not only had my health and finances been restored, but finally the prayers for the salvation of my family were coming to pass. One-by-one they were baptized and joined me in my walk with God. As far as the writing part, I felt God leading me to start a blog, so my son helped me set one up.

I’d just completed my first couple of posts in July, 2011, when I went to a Believer’s Convention in Ft Worth, TX. Like I said, I felt like I was standing on top of the mountain. God was blessing me in every way. I was so inspired at the convention, I felt like I was floating. All kinds of topics for the blog were coming to me at rapid-fire pace. I couldn’t wait to get back home and resume writing. But what happened next derailed that plan.

Hit By A Freight Train

Upon my return home, I was hit with what felt like a freight train from more than one direction. On my first day back at work, I was informed that a key employee was leaving the company. Because another co-worker in my department was already leaving about the same time, this translated into me working 50 and 60 hour work weeks for several months. Then in quick succession, various trials hit my friends and family members, one right after the other. Several of those I loved became disillusioned by the storms in their life, gave up on God, and walked away. Not only was I physically drained from the long hours I was putting in at work, but my heart was aching for all the loved ones going through so much suffering. I was so mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, I couldn’t even think about writing. But at the same time, I felt guilty for not doing what I knew God had told me to do. As the months passed, I started to justify not writing by asking God, “Did I take what I heard you say about writing, and misinterprete what I was supposed to do with it? Maybe you didn’t mean for me to write on a blog. I need You to show me that it’s the right direction.” After all, if writing was what I was supposed to be doing, shouldn’t God put me in a position where I could have the peace of mind to do it?

 Weeks went by, then months. My work environment gradually got back to normal. But with heavy storms still swirling in the lives of those I loved – I was so distracted and exhausted, I still couldn’t bring myself to sit down and write. But at the same time, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I knew something had to give. Either God needed to release me from this writing thing – or provide a way for me to do it. I so desperately needed some peace of mind, and kept thinking, “If only things would settle down around me, or if God would enable me to be financially set, so that I could quit working and devote myself to writing.” What happened next still blows my mind. Talk about a Word in due season!

A Needed Diversion

So there I was, mentally, physically, and spiritually drained; feeling like I was drifting through each day without purpose. But I kept thinking about the blog, whether I should just take it down. I couldn’t even bring myself to open the site and look at it. Why wouldn’t God just make it clear to me what I was supposed to do? Finally, I pretty much decided I wouldn’t do anything until I got a clear message. I told God, “If you want me to write, You’re going to have to hit me over the head with it, and show me how I’m to accomplish it with all this mess swirling around me. I need some peace and quiet.”

One day at work, a co-worker came up with this bright idea, that it would be wonderful if we participated in the OKC Memorial Marathon! She said they had a 5K available, so when three of my co-workers said they were game, I nervously agreed to participate. Two of us said we would run it, the other two decided they could at least walk the distance. The other runner and I had three months to prepare, so we downloaded the article ‘From Couch Potato to 5K’ and began training. My personal goal was to do the three miles in less than 40 minutes. I told God I would dedicate this race to Him. He’d healed me of the heart problem, and I believed somehow this was my way of giving Him glory for what He had done.

I started out mostly walking for 30 minutes, with short intervals of running, three times a week – all on my treadmill. Each week I progressed to a new level by running a little longer, with less and less walking time. The training process was very demanding, because with a deadline ahead, I had to continually press harder each week in order to gain precious ground. To progress to the next level, you can’t skip your training sessions, or you’ll loose the ground you’ve gained. I gradually got up to covering two miles, but felt like I was pushing against a brick wall to get any further than that. With only a month left until the run, I had made it up to two and a half miles in 40 minutes. Somehow, I needed to squeeze in that extra half mile, while decreasing my time. Another thing I had to consider was that running on concrete, along with the hills, twists and turns along the path, would greatly increase my level of difficulty. So at this point I adjusted my treadmill so that the running surface was as firm as possible, and increased the incline.

I finally made it to three miles! But I couldn’t seem to make it in less than 43 minutes. I’d read that, because of the adrenaline and excitement, you usually run faster during the actual race than you do in training. So I determined to do my best, hoping what I’d read was correct. But I sure wanted to beat that 40 minute mark!

Race Day

Out of the original four women that committed to participate, only three of us showed up on race day. I was so nervous standing there, waiting to begin. Never having done anything like this in my life, I really didn’t know what I might encounter. Oh, how I wished I’d trained harder. Would I even make it across the finish line? Looking past the barrier fence, I see my husband. He’s smiling and waving, but I know he’s concerned. He made me promise that if I felt the slightest irregular rhythm in my heart beat, I would stop. I wish he were running beside me……

About that time, I hear the start shot. Off we went, slowly at first, all of us pressed together like sardines. Then gradually everyone started spreading out, with the seasoned runners going on ahead. I’d been running several minutes when I see the first hill, and it looked so steep. I decide to walk the hill, feeling if I didn’t, I may not have enough energy to go the distance. Here and there throughout the run, my body kept telling me I was running out of steam and I should walk a minute – so I did that several times. And those hills, I didn’t run any of them. I just slowed down to a fast walk.

What amazed me is how lonely I felt out there. It dawned on me that I was totally on my own. This was something no one else could do for me. Although there were crowds of people along the sidelines, some of them cheering, it didn’t seem to help. Some were holding signs with their loved ones name on it, but I didn’t see any familiar faces, and felt no connection to the crowd. I remember even thinking, “Why aren’t they participating in the race?” I began to wonder why I had entered, what was the purpose? My breathing was off, my heart pounding, and I kept caving in to the feeling I needed to slow down to a walk for the hills and turns. The highlight for me was when I saw the finish line almost a quarter mile away. I encouraged myself with the fact it was almost over, and even found it within myself to encourage a few others who looked like they were in agony. I told them, “We can do this thing!”

I made it to the finish line! But it was then that I realized, although I had beaten my own record at 41 minutes, I’d failed to meet my ultimate goal of running the 5K in under 40 minutes. I couldn’t believe what I’d done. I missed my goal by only 2 minutes! I was so disappointed by my inability to discipline myself. Why had I been so intimidated by the hills, the fatigue, the loneliness of no one to cheer for me, all those silly distractions? If I had only ran those hills – instead of walking them!

God’s Answer

With the marathon over, things pretty much went back to the way it had been before my training program, except for the fact I continued running to stay in shape. With the pressure of training gone, I had begun to use my running time to praise God in prayer, and by singing along with my favorite Christian songs from my iPhone. Running was now becoming something I looked forward to, another way of getting alone with God, just the two of us.

One morning, about a month after the race, I was on the treadmill singing along to Chris Tomlin’s ‘Our God,’ praising God for all His wonders. All of a sudden, the full impact hit me, and I became overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord.  It was at that moment, the wall in front of me lit up like a television screen:

I saw a race track, and I was running on it. Straight ahead, up in the distance, there was a bright light that grew larger and brighter as I ran towards it. Now, I was no longer just watching myself run on the track, but was on the track in real time. There were bleachers lining both sides of the track filled with an innumerable crowd cheering me on. But then all of a sudden, there were things like large rocks and huge boulders coming down from the sky out of nowhere, being hurled towards me and onto the track directly in front of me. Just as I began to slow down to avoid being hit, I heard a voice say, “Look straight ahead, and keep your eyes fixed on Me. Don’t look to the right hand or to the left.” As I looked straight ahead into the light, it grew brighter. I was running full speed now, this time with all my might. In my peripheral vision, I could see most of the objects were disappearing before they even hit the track. Those that did fall in front of me, I scooped up in my arms and lifted them up to God – without even breaking my stride. They disappeared as He took them from me. Nothing could stop me now as I focused straight ahead and ran towards the light!  The light grew bigger and brighter.  End of Vision.

As I got off the treadmill, I was in awe of what God had just shown me. Our job is to run the race. The path has already been prepared and laid out by God. But once you enter the race, the evil one will throw all kinds of obstacles and distractions your way in his attempt to derail God’s plan for you. And if he can’t touch you, he’ll mess in the lives of everyone around you. He’ll brew up every storm imaginable to swirl around you, to get you to take your eyes off God and what He has called you to do. Just as I had allowed all the distractions during the 5K keep me from accomplishing my goal, so had I also allowed the distractions swirling around in my life keep me from doing what God had clearly called me to do. Do Not Look at the Storm! We are to keep our eyes looking straight ahead towards God. Those obstacles that present themselves along the way, we are to lift up to God and keep on running. He is faithful. We can trust Him to take care of everything around us. And just as Hebrews 12:1 states, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, so we are never alone. All of heaven is cheering us on!

So I got my answer from God. As I stated in the beginning, He is always faithful to give us a word in due season. I’m writing again! No matter what happens, I’ll not stop unless God directs me to do something else. Now I’m running my race looking straight ahead, keeping my focus on the Light, and refusing to be distracted by the storm. I’m handing off anything that falls along my path to the One who can handle it, casting all my care on Him.

Oh, and the 5K marathon is coming up again. I think I’ll run it this year for old time’s sake. This time, I’ll be praising God and singing praises to Him along the way. And I’m pretty sure I’ll make my ‘under 40 minutes’ goal this time!

To Him be the Glory!