Perhaps the most intense battle in my Christian walk is my confidence in myself. If anyone thinks I can write a book, become a doctor, and save the world before bedtime, it’s me. In my opinion, I’m the greatest. That’s perfect if I’m a New Ager, but miserable because I am indeed a Christian. Not that ambitious Christians should be stoned or disqualified, but when my confidence in my awesomeness eclipses the finished work of Christ and trips up my ability to depend on and trust in Him, I am in trouble. Unfortunately, I learn best by experience and this truth was so vividly apparent to me when a good friend of mine asked me to go for a run with her. It had been months since I’d ran. Nevertheless, I accepted the invitation to run a hilly 6- mile trail. I knew it would be difficult, but there was no doubt I could do it. My confidence springs from a half marathon, 13.1 miles, I’d completed a year and a half previous. I agreed with my friend who ensured, “Muscle memory is on your side.” Her remark was in response to my declaration that I had no intentions of keeping up with her. I confess, I was puffed up on my abilities, but I reserved that truth for my thoughts alone.
Not only was my confidence built on my past feat, it also wreaked of my past running escapades with this particular friend. She has never outrun me, and even out of practice, I believed we would at least keep the same pace.
Steady and small characterized the first 10 minutes of our walk and talk. Just warming up.
“My dad always likes to run this steep hill at the end, I think that’s so silly,” she said.
“Let’s do it! Sounds fun!” I felt good and up for it.
Twelve minutes into the actual run, I stop to nurse the cramp ensuing on my side. My friend graciously stopped too, dissolving the gap between us. “Thank God,” I thought. This became the trend until around mile 4 or so. At that point I started begging for water. “There is a fountain about a half a mile up the way.” Can I make it that far? My side was pulsating, I was hungry, I was hot, and my mouth was drier than ashy elbows. At one point, running had become “my thing” and now, all I wanted to do was lay in a tub of cold water and cry. I could not believe how difficult it was for me to make my body move.
We finally got to the water fountain. On a normal basis I’d be too skeptical to consider seeking refuge in a public oasis. But today I could not get to it fast enough. Breathless and sloppy, I let the water crash into my face and mouth. Who knew water in the park could taste so good?! It was cool. It was refreshing. It was restoring. I gulped as if it were 1999. This was surely the world’s last supply. I savored the feeling of the water passing through my throat and down whatever organs are behind my chest.
“We can just walk the rest of the way,” my friend said. And despite my desperate condition, I felt the pride in my heart yet bursting to scream, “I got this!” Not only did I want to finish, I wanted to finish strong. I refused to celebrate the 4 miles I’d come, recognize the compassion being extended through my friend, and accept that I needed to take it easy. It wasn’t until the last mile of the ordeal that I began to notice the convicting similarities between this run and my walk with God.
Cut to two weeks ago, off the heels of yet another gripping Sunday message from the book of 1 John in Blueprint’s Genuine Faith series. I was on the phone with the same running partner and best friend, weeping because I am always the last one to know how I’m really doing. I verbally processed through how I was feeling after the message, “I’ve really been trying to push through to get time with the Lord, even though I’m not really feeling it… I just want to abide.”
Her words to me beautifully summed up the hope etched within Pastor John’s message: “Abiding in Christ does not just mean having the discipline to get a quiet time in, it means resting in the work Christ already accomplished on the cross.”
If I were to sum up the way Pastor John said it in his message, I’d say, “My Christianity is often about doing the right things and staying away from the wrong things, when what God desires is that we abide in Him…. Abiding is not about our actions; it’s about our allegiance… To abide in him means that my life is confined and defined by His life.“
Jesus is that cool, life- giving gulp of water and he is available for his children, in and out of shape, on a daily basis. Why would I ever seek to climb this mountain of life in my own strength? Why would I forgo rest for an anxiety attack? Why would I choose to be the captain of the ship when I know the one who built it?
God knows me more than I have the capacity to know that I am known (Psalm 139:1-6). He has been graciously exalting himself to show me mercy through the Genuine Faith series, just as he did when I barely made it through that 6 mile run. The past few weeks in 1 John have restored my resolve to abide in Him. Why I continually put weight on myself that God himself doesn’t I do not know. I am grateful for the opportunities and reminders to trust him in this life. I pray my soul would rest in Him; He is the greatest.