My running is getting smoother now, I am finding the cadence is becoming efficient, with a strong stride. I look to my right and see the angel. To the left the Holy Spirit. In front of the three of us is the strongest runner setting the pace. It is Jesus.
Jesus came to me when I was a little boy, at a time when I was filled with grief. Afraid of my dad, a man who was physically abusive, I sat in my sandbox feeling very much afraid of just about everything around me. It was at that moment Jesus came to me and spoke. He first assured me that what was happening to me was not my fault, I had done nothing to deserve such brutal treatment, but that I deserved instead to be loved, cared for, protected and helped in this life. Then he told me He was going to be with me to take care of me from now on.
That was where my strength, that I now know to be faith, started. Later I would stand against my dad’s brutality and even protect myself, while my three brothers never overcame their fear, and that fear turned to hatred, hatred to bitterness, and their lives were impacted as they struggled to overcome dad’s terrible rule and reign and recover their own lives to live out as best they knew how.
The angel came later when I wasn’t even expecting her. I had several close calls, near death misses, and I sensed her moving in closer each time in order to protect me. Many times in my life I faced tragedy and even death, and each time she was there, strong in her power and diligent in her job of looking out for and protecting me.
As I grew older I never forgot Jesus nor the angel. But school, a career, marriage and children took me deep into the world system where all of us human beings operate, where we live, move, and have our being. It is a world of corruption. A world of lying and betrayal. A world of grief and suffering. We begin to lose the spark and the innocence that existed when we thought we could do anything that we set our minds to do, and that people and the world would welcome us with open arms and celebrate our success along with us, just as we would celebrate theirs.
Life dragged on and became increasingly dreary and mundane. Each day was full of disappointments, setbacks and problems. I questioned my career choice…wondered about the purpose of life, and why happiness seemed always just out of reach for me. Then Jesus came again to me, this time seemed almost as fresh and new as the first time I met him in my sandbox as a child. He didn’t say much but it was his presence that almost knocked me off my feet. He said only, “follow me.”
I immediately said, “yes Lord, I will follow you.” So I’m thinking about my life and all these things as the four of us are running. Jesus knows the trail, his face is fixed like stone staring straight toward where he wanted to go. The angel is close enough on my right to make sure I don’t fall and get hurt. Likewise the Holy Spirit is bringing into remembrance all of my Lord’s Words as I am better understanding just what the heck we are doing right now, where we are going, why this is the right way and what will it be like when we reach the finish line.
This Jesus looks strong, and he is strong. But he had a lot of the same weaknesses of my own that he suffered in his short life, living only a bit more than 30 years. He suffered hunger and thirst, he would get weak and tired, he felt the pangs of betrayal, grief and rejection. He didn’t have any loyal friends, everyone over time finally just took off as they found other things they wanted to do.
Yet here he was doing this for me. I was overwhelmed with the combination of gratefulness, love, hope, faith in Him and the promise of where we would be soon. So I kept my pace, I kept my stride, I didn’t look back. The four of us rounded the final bend and I could see in the distance the beautiful bright but soft glow of a city. Jesus whispered, but just loud enough for me to hear him, “there is a crown waiting for you there, your Father loves you, we love you. There you will be welcomed and realize where you were intended to be, where you feel you have purpose, joy, peace and are surrounded by many who love you and take you just as you are…let’s pick up the pace…we’re almost home.”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us runwith perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”