Running is so good for you, and the analogies to life are endless. I guess that is why Scripture paints so many pictures of athletes running to exemplify our Spiritual walks!
On Saturday I had sort of a full day so it was after dark before I was able to get out and put a few miles on my sneaks. It was refreshingly cooler than it had been all week, so I excitedly laced up my shoes, set my stopwatch and put in my jams. (Yes, I still run with distractions, even after the introspection I had on that.) I live in a safe neighborhood and I chose well-lit streets so as to be as safe as possible while running. But as I got out into my run I realized that often the shrubbery and trees between me and the street lights make the sidewalk itself completely blacked out. I could see everything around me except the ground on which I would take my next step. Now, one of the gazillion reasons I love Denver is the fact that the city is veined with groomed running paths to save athlete’s joints, but for the sake of time and safety I stayed close to home on sidewalks that unfortunately are not very level. Roots have buckled a substantial portion of the joints and ice has broken the skin off random sections leaving exposed gravel. But I wanted to run at least four miles, so I couldn’t spend the full 32 minutes closely examining the ground, or it would turn into 45 minutes and a worthless workout. So I noticed myself picking my feet up very high and stepping extremely lightly. every. single. step.
Where am I going with this? As a follower of Christ, we are now children of the light (1 Thess 5.5). I just finished my biennial reading of “The Mortification of Sins” – in which John Owen writes this beautiful progression of understanding of the illumination of sin and Truth:
“‘No man has seen God at any time’, but, ‘The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him’ (John 1.19); and, ‘The Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true’ (1 John 5.20); and the illumination of ‘the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God”‘ shines upon believers (2 Cor 4.4). Yes, and ‘God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, has shone in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor 4.6). So that though we were ‘darkness’, yet we are now ‘light in the Lord’ (Eph 5.8). And the apostle says, ‘We all, with unveiled face, behold the glory of the Lord’ (2 Cor 3.18).
We are now very far from being in such darkness, or at such a distance from God. ‘Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son’ (1 John 1.3). The light of the gospel which God has revealed to us, is not a star, but the Sun. His beauty is risen upon us and the veil is taken away from our face! Unbelievers may yet be in some darkness, but those of any growth or considerable attainments have a clear sight and view of the face of God in Jesus Christ.”
If nothing else, take away from that the simple reality that we, as believers, are children of light and walk in the light. We are no longer of darkness because God has unveiled our faces to see Him who is the source of all light and Truth and knowledge.
Now, back to my story and consequent analogy. We are not yet fully in the light. We, though having seen Christ with the eyes of our hearts, still see through a mirror dimly (1 Cor 13.11) even though we have been given an unveiled face to understand the New Covenant of Grace (2 Cor 3.18).
When we are in the dark, our eyes adjust and we can see forms around us. But when we are in the light, we cannot see things in the dark. Shadows are black holes in which nothing can reside. If I would have been running on a completely darkened street, I would have been able to make out the fact that obstacles were in front of me, though I would not have been able to see them fully. But since I was running in lit areas, the darkness the encompassed the sidewalk made the ground indiscernible. And as a consequence I took every step with care. I did not take a single step with full assurance of solid ground before me and I essentially ran high knees so as to not trip over a root or buckled joint. And I made it home unscathed.
When I run in the daytime, I pay minimal attention to the obstacles of the sidewalk. Unless, of course, there is a downed tree or closed sidewalk, or when I go trail running with a friend and have to cross a substantial creek on rocks.
But we are still running in shadows. There are things ahead of us which we cannot see. There are sins and encumbrances that are ready to entangle us (Heb 12.2). But there is also an adversary out working against us. As I was running this obstacle course in darkness, I reflected on a verse in 1 Peter: “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (5.8). Take note that the devil is not stalking you in the weeds. He is not laying quietly in wait to catch you off guard. He is roaring. A lion has every advantage over his prey, and he roars to instill fear. He lets you know that he is coming and that he is going to eat you. Being in the light, we can hear this roar and see the darkened path under our feet. Though we may not know the exact obstacle that awaits us, we know it is there. We may not know if he will pounce from the left or right, from down the path or behind. But he is roaring. The path is riddled with obstructions that would cause us to stumble or go astray.
Therefore, let us be purposeful to set aside every encumbrance: any weights and distractions that might hinder us from running our best. Let us step carefully. Let us evaluate our day-to-day and not coast as down a clearly lit sidewalk and carelessly stub our toes and twist our ankles. But let us be aware of the schemes of the enemy and of our sin – let us learn to know our enemy and fight with wisdom against his tactics. One would never enter a battle blindly, without having studied his enemy. Let us be aware. Let us honor God. Let us finish the race.