Friday, July 18, 2014

Runnin' with Jesus

Lord Jesus, you are so good.  I cannot thank you enough for who you are to me.  In every season, you prove yourself faithful.  You are so gracious to give me yourself each and every day.  Father, I confess that I have so little to offer you today -- apart from some serious anxiety and stress.  But thank you that you can take even the most broken of circumstances, hearts, and minds and make them new.  I pray that you would use me in my brokenness today to make your truth plain to us.  Holy Spirit, I pray that you would fill me.  Exchange my heart for yours.  Exchange my mind for yours.  Exchange my words for yours.  Exchange my eyes for yours.  May I not walk or speak according to my flesh but according to your wisdom.  May I look to you.  You have taught me so much in the past few years about exercise, fitness, and walking with you.  I pray that you would remind me of your truth and ask that your name would be glorified.  I pray that you would use my broken words to make your name great and encourage others to run with you all the days of their lives. You're too good to us, Lord.  Thank you in advance for teaching us more of who you are and how we can draw near to you in every situation.


A couple of years ago, I had the grandiose idea that I ought to run a marathon.  Me.  Caitlyn Kutch.  Ya'll.  I didn't run.  Actually I'm quite confident that at the time I started dreaming all this up in my mind, I had run two or three miles max -- ever.  Yet something within me decided it was time to try something seemingly impossible.  I suppose I'm kind of one of those people at times -- those for whom nothing seems impossible.  

Like all endeavors, my motives in running the marathon were undoubtedly mixed.  I wanted to learn how to depend on the Lord for everything -- even something as seemingly simplistic as running a mile.  I wanted to learn how to trust the Lord for something I thought would be dreadfully difficult.  Furthermore, I remember wanting to establish a pattern of discipline in my life.  And naturally, I know I desired a fit, toned runner's body, which I was sure would inevitably lead to some hunky, dreamy, Jesus-lovin' fella falling in love with me.  Ammiiiirighhhtt?  Granted, I would have never admitted that.  I may not have even been able to articulate those things at the time, but over the past few years, the Lord has graciously made me very aware of the sinful, selfish motivations which are intricately woven into all of my actions.  Oh the sinful nature -- how exhausting it can be...!

All that being said, what began as a desire to run 26.2 miles became a glorious (and painful) adventure with Jesus that I will forever treasure.  Quickly I found that as glamorous as anything like running a marathon may sound in theory, the tune is much lower and darker at 6 a.m. when it's 45 degrees outside, and you need to run 5 miles before a full day of class and work.  Training for a marathon -- like any other athletic event, I'm sure -- is a commitment.  Heck, life is a commitment.  Eventually you have to decide -- I'm either in this or I'm not.  I'm going to press on or I'm going to settle for defeat.  

Eventually, however, I found that though I began with the greatest of intentions of commitment and discipline, my weeks were soon marked by series after series of faithfulness and unfaithfulness alike.  There were weeks I would run every single day, and there were weeks it was a miracle if I ran twice.  

As disciplined as I tried to be, the truth was I just wasn't disciplined enough.  As much as I wanted to be faithful to train every day, inevitably something would come up.  There were simply no worldly factors motivating enough to get me to the end -- or sometimes even the start.  No amount of people telling me I looked good or encouraging my work ethic gave me the strength and endurance I needed to push me to the finish line.  Instead I found that when I was working out of those desires, the path eventually just got longer and longer and longer with no end in sight.

I desperately needed deeper motivation and greater strength than I possessed in my own rite.  I remember the night before I was supposed to run 19 miles.  It was one of our last long runs before the race.  I was driving the route to map it all out for the next morning, and I had to pull over because I was physically sick.  I remember saying, "Lord, there is no freaking way.  There is NO WAY.  I can't do this.  I haven't trained well enough.  I haven't been faithful.  I know we've come a long way, but let's just call it good.  It has been a fun adventure.  You've taught me a lot.  I've run 16 miles.  That's a feat in itself.  Don't you think?"

And the truth is, I am confident that I could have left it there, and the Lord would not have been any more or less pleased with me.  I could have decided that evening I'd had enough, and God's approval of me would not have vacillated or changed in any way, shape, or form.  In His abundant mercy and grace, His approval of us is not based upon our performance, our victories, our failures, or our motivations, but His approval of us is based upon the life that Christ lived on our behalf.  

But yet, while I didn't have to run 19 miles that day for the Lord to love me or to prove my value or worth, I knew that in the stillness of my heart, He was inviting me to trust Him.  

"Run in faith, CaitCait.  Run in faith, believing I will provide for you, not because you did anything to deserve my provision.  Not because you trained well or  represented me well for the kingdom of heaven but because of who I am.  I will be faithful to you ALWAYS.  You are precious to me.  I have loved you with an everlasting love.  No, you didn't do anything to deserve my love or to win my affections, you simply have it -- always and forever.  Put your full weight upon me.  Lean into me, and believe that I am who I say I am.  I will never leave you or forsake you.  You allow me to be who I am when you allow me to care for you and supply you with everything you need.  Fix your eyes on me.  Your strength will come in settling down in complete dependence upon me.  The truth is, you can't do this alone, but rely on me.  Know that I am enough.  I bore the weight of the sins of the world on my shoulders.  I have defeated sin and death.  Believe I will carry you through this.  Trust me.  I love you."

He was inviting me to let go of my pride, my fears, my inadequacies and lean into Him as the One who gives life, strength, joy, and peace to my soul and body alike.  He was inviting me to run with Him.  He was inviting me to depend not on myself or my own efforts but on His sufficiency.

He was inviting me to experience Himself.

All throughout the Bible, God was making a way for us to know Him and experience perfect unity with Him forever.  In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, the mountains, the trees, the flowers, the birds, the lizards, and the lily pads alike.  He created everything under the sun and called them good.  Likewise He created man and woman (Adam and Eve), and He called them good too because they were.  They lived in perfect union with God, enjoying Him and delighting in Him and His creation every second of the day.  Until one day, the serpent Satan came to Eve and asked her, "Did God really say not to eat from that tree?"  He made her question God's character and the validity of His word.  And ultimately, she chose to reject God's truth for the lies the serpent was feeding her.  Adam and Eve, thinking they could decide for themselves what was best, chose to go their own way apart from God.  Sin, death, brokenness, pain, and evil then entered the world.  Nothing was ever the same, and that is the world we have inherited.  But God never intended to leave mankind in that wretched state forever.  From the very beginning, He intended to send His one and only son Jesus to take our place and die the death we deserve, so that we might be able to experience Him and be one with Him for eternity.  Jesus delighted in coming to earth to save us from our sins.

God delighted in giving us Himself, so that we might know Him deeply and perfectly forever.  We were made to know God.  We were made to depend on Him.  We were made to experience perfect unity with Him.  And apart from Him, life just isn't as God intended it to be.  But when we place our faith in Christ, God not only saves us from our sins, He gives us even more of Himself in giving us the Holy Spirit.  When we trust that Jesus is who He says He was -- the very Son of God -- and desire Him to be the Lord of our lives, He gives us the Holy Spirit, who comes to live inside our hearts and impart God's power to us daily.  Thus for those who believe in and follow Jesus, the very love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control of Jesus is living inside of us.

Not only has He offered me the forgiveness of my sins through Jesus, but through Christ, God has offered me a relationship with Himself.  And daily He continues to offer me Himself -- in conversations with heart friends, in smiles and laughter, in the beautiful expanse of nature, in the simple joys of early morning cups of coffee, and even in running.

Running is something I have grown to love and value deeply because I've found that more often than not, when I'm running, I experience deep intimacy with the Lord.  By God's grace, exercising has become an opportunity to completely depend upon the Lord.  Every time I run or go workout, I have a choice to either work out of my own strength or to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and work out of the strength of the Lord.  Every time I step outside to run, whether it's one mile or three or fifteen miles, the Lord presents me with an opportunity to trust Him, to believe He's with me, to take a step of faith, and to worship Him.  Every time I run, I get to tangibly experience God's goodness and grace lavished upon me in the way He sustains me until the very end.

Exercise is such a gift from the Lord!  But like any good gift, I know I can quickly demonize it or idolize it.  I can find all of my significance in how much I'm exercising or feel absolutely worthless when I haven't worked out in a couple of days.  I can make it all about myself.  I can use it as a way to manipulate my body to look a certain way to gain more approval and affection from others.  But there have also been times when I've been battling depression, I've wanted more than anything to be able to get outside and exercise, but I literally couldn't move.  I felt so paralyzed and found myself stuck in a place of idleness.  But it was in one of those moments, the Lord impressed on my heart that the enemy wants us to be idle in every sense of the word.  He wants to us to be idle in the way we pursue other people, in the way we share our faith and talk about Jesus, and in the way we live and move and exercise.  But God has not called us to a life of idleness.  He's called us to a life of engaging in activity and relationships with others and Himself.  He's called us to walk with Him, to run with Him, to rest with Him, to dwell with Him and in Him all the days of our lives.  He's called us to follow Him.  And the best part is, He doesn't expect us to just suck it up, take a deep breath, and walk outside.  He promises that with each step we take, He will empower us.  He will give us His strength.

If I could encourage ya'll in any way in this area of your lives, it would be to ask God what He would have you trust Him for today, this week, this month, this year.  Maybe He's asking you to trust Him to supply you with the strength and energy to run 2 miles.  Maybe He's asking you to trust Him that your value is not found in how many miles you run or don't run.  Maybe He's asking you to look to worshipping Him as your sole source of motivation for exercising.  Maybe He's asking you to rely on Him for the big things and the little things alike.

Whatever He is calling you to specifically today, I am confident that in every moment, He is offering Himself to you.  God loves you.  He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because He loves you because that is what He is like.  He knows our deepest needs will only ever be met in Him.  He invites us to trust Him, to believe He is good, to depend on Him, and to run with Him for a lifetime.  Though we don't see Him physically beside us today, we can know with certainty He's there.  And one day, that sweet, glorious, precious day, we will see Him face to face at the finish line, where I'm confident we will have a greeting unlike any other greeting before.  We could never make it there on our own, but by His grace, He will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever give up on us.  Thank you, Jesus!

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