The God of the Marathon

God Is Always There When You Need Him

It was Memorial Day and my schedule had taken me to the beautiful Colorado Rockies for a week of camp with teenagers. I had arrived on Friday and spoken several times over the weekend to the staff and counselors and was ready for a great week. I awoke early on Monday morning and after a good time with the Lord, the light of a new day was sneaking through the window of my room. It was time for my morning jog!

It was a cool Rocky Mountain morning as I stepped outside. A thin layer of frost covered the ground and that crisp, cool air quickly filled my lungs. I was ready—three light layers of clothing, my running shoes, and a ball cap. It was a steady climb out the driveway to the camp, covering a mile and a half. I had tackled this driveway the two previous days, and as I hit the main road, I felt great! This was one of those days when I knew I had more than my usual five miles in me.

About seven or eight times a year, I try to run for two hours. Those wonderfully blessed Kenyans, who always seem to win our Boston Marathon, may be able to run “farther” than me, but at least I can run for as “long” as they can! As I hit my stride, I decided this was going to be one of those two hour runs. Like I said, I had done it before—the only problem was—I had never attempted it at 8,600 feet above sea level!

The first hour was an absolute joy. Not a person in sight. No cars, no noise, no smog—just the sound of the woodpeckers and an occasional spotting of a deer loping off into the woods. It was a holiday! I was 1,000 miles from my office, I was not scheduled to preach until nine o’clock that night, and I was privileged to be out enjoying some of God’s most beautiful creation anywhere.

As I hit the one hour mark, I felt so good, I fleetingly had a thought to keep going (perhaps a new record), but I thought better of it and made the turn. As soon as I did, that gravel road reached up and grabbed me. What had not seemed like much of a “decline,” suddenly was a massive “incline” in the opposite direction. My legs were feeling like rubber, my lungs began to burn with that high mountain air, my head began to ache, and my vision was blurred. A beautiful white-tailed buck stood in the middle of the road about fifty yards ahead of me and just stared in wonder!

It was at this point that my brain began to tell me that I was an idiot. I was over six miles from camp and my fuel gauge was on “empty.” The crazy dog that chased me for the next quarter of a mile did quicken my pace, but did not do my lungs any favors.

About a half-mile into my return trip, I looked up between some trees and caught a glimpse of the most beautiful snow-capped mountain peak I had ever seen. My first thought upon its presence, was God. There it stood, unwavering, towering above everything else below in its majesty and beauty. It seemed like every time I felt like I could not possibly go another step, that mountain would appear once again between those trees, as if to say, “I’m still here.”

Two hours, three minutes, and forty-one seconds after I started, I took the last step of that morning jog at my cabin door. As I walked onto the deck, I looked off into the distance across the valley, and there it was, still looking down, unmoved, unchanged, and ever-present.

I do not suppose I will ever forget my Memorial Day marathon—no crowds, no finish line, no water stands—just me and a mountain. I learned a lot that day. Sometimes when we are running strong in life, we don’t recognize the presence of God, but He is there just as that mountain looming in the distance. I am glad that when we need Him, in times of trial or difficulty, He makes sure that we can see Him.

After a hot shower, a banana, and a Diet Coke, my mind went to a passage that I had memorized years before. It had new meaning now as I opened my Bible and read:

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. (Psalm 121)

 Does your life’s journey seem uphill today? Does it seem like your fuel tank is on “empty” spiritually and the devil’s “dogs” are after you? Remember: “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever” (Psalm 125:2). Keep running and look up once in a while to see the mountain!

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