Breathlessly I rounded the final corner and jogged down the last hill. My lungs were burning. My knees were screaming. It was March of 2020, and I had just completed a 15-mile run in preparation for my first marathon set to happen in May. Tired and sore but satisfied with my accomplishment, I limped inside for some rest.
March of 2020 was a pivotal month! Not only because I completed the longest run I had ever attempted, but also because of the international lockdown that brought the whole world to a stop. My marathon was canceled, but I hardly had time to think about how disappointed I was. My then 5 and 6-year-olds relied on me heavily for their online schooling, and my 3-year-old was, well, busy being a 3-year-old! I became so engrossed in the daily needs of my family that in a few short months I could no longer run even 5 miles without stopping. This was a very disappointing reality.
I can’t help but draw a parallel here between my situation and Jesus’ parents when they lost him in Jerusalem. “And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the Boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions… So when they saw Him, they were amazed and His mother said to Him, ‘Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously' " (Luke 2:42-46, 48). At 12 years old, who knows you better and more intimately than your parents? The two people who should have been most in tune with Jesus’ habits, whereabouts, and motivations were His parents. They were close! They lived under the same roof! They provided and cared for His needs. And yet, in a moment of carelessness, they lost their greatest treasure. The Boy who was under their charge was gone. And that lost connection took three whole days to restore.
It is remarkable how easy it is to lose our way when we take our eyes off Jesus. It is also easy to become physically out of shape! It takes no effort. Training to run a marathon takes discipline. It hurts. Some days it takes all you have in you just to get started. But let me ask you a question. Have you ever regretted a workout? Have you ever completed a run and wished you just hadn’t done it? No way! Let me ask you something else. Have you ever sat down at the dinner table and eaten twice as much as you should have? In the moment it felt great. But you most certainly regretted it later! God has given us bodies that He expects us to care for and preserve as best as we know how. And there is a blessing in eating moderate amounts of clean, plant-based foods and exercising regularly! Our bodies can carry out tasks easily and our minds are clear for the Holy Spirit to speak to us and guide us. But there is a deeper lesson here. One day, even just one moment, of allowing our guard to be lowered, is all it takes to be separated from God. And it may take us many days to find our way back to where we were. Praise the Lord that we serve a God who is abundant in mercy and promises that, “you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Notice that this beautiful promise requires effort on our part. No half-hearted searching. We must seek God with all our hearts. And is that not what God’s last day remnant people should be doing? Are we laying “aside every weight, and the sin which easily ensnares us” and running “with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1)?
Just recently I decided to start my running journey all over again. Today, there is no way that I could manage a 15-mile run. But I’ll get there again. I’ll run with patience and endurance. I’ll stretch myself just a little bit more every week. I’ll care for this body that God has given me, and by His grace, I’ll be running longer distances soon enough.
Call to Action
I challenge you to not only take up regular physical exercise, but to exercise your faith every day. I challenge you to grow in your prayer life. I challenge you to exercise practical godliness at home and in your community. I challenge you to lay aside every weight and every sin. Hold on to Jesus. He is most certainly holding on to you!
All scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.