A few weeks ago, my family got up early on a Saturday morning to run the Special Kids 5k. It is a huge and wonderful event in our city. Thousands of runners at the “butt crack” of dawn, gather to run and to raise money for this amazing organization. So, this year our whole family decided to run together. Well, not our whole family. Jacob was flying and Caleb is just 4 months old, so Allison had to stay in with him. And Doris, well, did I mention that it was dawn, and it was running? Doris was out. By whole family, I mean Josh and Jennifer, Jon-Mical and Jakson, and me, Poppy C.
We milled around at the start of the race, drank some hot chocolate, talked to friends, and promised that we would all stay together and have a fun run. But when the gun sounded, Jon-Mical who is 12 and fast as lightning, (and very competitive) took off like a shot. He decided immediately that A, he was going to win this race, and B that it wasn’t going to happen if he hung around with his family. Now get the picture, there are 2000 runners. We are going to be running down city streets and through forests. The gun sounds and Jon-Mical immediately disappears in this huge crowd of people. Jennifer is distraught. All of her motherly instincts come clamoring to the surface. She and Josh have Jakson to contend with. He is nine and not really interested in family, race, or anything much other than the hot chocolate, and Jon-Mical sprinting into who knows what. With the incredible decisiveness of an Army general, she yells at me in a voice that had to be obeyed, “PoppyC, don’t let him out of your sight.”
Now, get the picture again, Jon-Mical is 12 and lightning fast, I AM NOT! But I fired my old, fat, 66-year old self up, full of the fear of God and of Jennifer, and took off through the crowd after Jon-Mical. He was so good. Darting in and out, slipping around people, like a cheetah after its prey, Jon-Mical was effortless. I would have reveled watching him were I not busy gasping for breath and apologizing to the people that I was knocking out of the way. For 3.2 miles, Jon-Mical danced and darted through the throng of people and I tried desperately to keep him in sight.
In my devotions this morning, I read the story of the Shepherd of the 100 sheep (Matt. 18:12). 99 are safe in the fold but one lamb is sprinting through the crowd of other sheep, trying to win who knows what… and the Shepherd goes after it. I imagine, bobbing and weaving His way through the crowd, turning up city streets and running through forests, He keeps His eyes on the lost sheep until He finally catches it. And the lamb, I’m sure, never knew the potential danger it was in or the havoc it was wreaking on the pursuing Shepherd. That may not be exactly how it’s written but it makes sense to me.
It dawned on me, as I read that little story, that God has been pursuing me my whole life. There were many times when I would have told you that He had deserted me and left me to my own devices. Not true. He was hot on my heels. Winding His way through the crowds to keep me near. There were other times that I would have said I was pursuing Him, trying my best to find Him in the messes and the mishaps of life. Not true, in those moments He was still pursuing me. Arranging and orchestrating events so that I would turn to Him. He has always, always pursued me, looked for me through the throng, kept me in sight. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “The eyes of the Lord roam to and for across the whole earth, looking to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are fully devoted to Him.”
He is a God who pursues, from the starting gun to the last step of the race, He is relentless, staying after us and making sure we finish the course intact. Sometimes He is so close we can feel His breath on the back of our necks. Sometimes, for some reason, He lets us roam out there a little far until it seems like He can barely see us as we round a curve. But always, and in either case, He is after us, protecting, monitoring, even guiding when we don’t know it, not resting until He gets us safe in the fold with the silver medal around our necks and hot chocolate in our hands.
Three simple statements come to mind:
- I have never been out of His sight. I have never in my life taken one step that He didn’t know about. Sometimes I felt lost. Sometimes I felt alone. But He was right there. He knew exactly where I was and what I was going through.
- I have never been off of the course. It seems like there are seasons in my life, chapters, that are so far off track, so away from God, that they are not even part of the plan. Not so. This has all been a part of the race that He laid out before me and I could not have skipped one step.
- And finally, I have never been out of the race. Jon-Mical did not win the race. PoppyC SURE did not win the race. But this race that I am talking about, the one where the Good Shepherd is pursuing me. I win. You win. We all win. There is never a moment where He said, “Alright, you are so far behind just get off the course and out of the way.” He never disqualified me or took me out of play. As long as I am running, He is pursuing, and we are headed toward the prize.
Well, the race ended. Jon-Mical was beaming. He finished way up in the pack and felt really good about himself. Josh, Jennifer, and Jakson came strolling up, all smiles, with hot chocolate and donuts in their hands. And PoppyC? I had my head in a trash can puking my guts out and vowing to never, ever run another race. And that’s where the beautiful metaphor ends. 😊 God doesn’t struggle to keep up. He has the whole race, yours and mine, under control. And today, if you look over your shoulder, I am pretty sure you will see Him pursuing you. Run well.