By KRISTAN DOOLEY
I was thrilled when I moved into a neighborhood with actual running paths. Before, most of my running time was spent dodging traffic or staring intently at broken sidewalks so as not to trip, Now, daily runs didn’t seem so bad as I made my way in and out of nicely shaded areas, saw small ponds littered with baby ducks and even got to cross a few wooden bridges sprinkled throughout the path.
At first, I used my runs to wander through the new neighborhoods. Instead of paying attention to my time, I often worked to piece together the perfect route. It was like a new puzzle stealing my attention away from the discomfort of exercise. With the sun on my shoulders and a good podcast in my ear, I sometimes hardly noticed I was running.
Eventually, though, those new running paths weren’t so new anymore. I could run them frontwards, backwards and even zig-zag back and forth and it didn’t matter. I always knew about how long it would take me and where I would end up. I knew the hard hills, the easy straightaways and I always knew my time. I actually sorta forgot to enjoy my runs. I started spending more time focusing on my watch and being done than admiring the scenery around me.
The more I focused my runs on just getting done, the less time I took to experience the goodness of God while running until eventually, it was all about what I was doing and not who I was doing it with. God is always present and at work and no matter what I am doing, but I forgot that I am invited to be in that space with Him. My running went from a space of connectivity to a space of competition.
It made me think of Revelation 2:2-4: “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.”
I can relate to the Church in Ephesus that the Apostle John is writing to. It appears this is a vibrant church. They are hard workers and persevering in spreading the Gospel message. They are faithful to the Scriptures and willing to take a stand when necessary. But in that day-to-day pursuit of perfection, they’d forgotten the thing driving them: Jesus’ love. In light of the work of the Gospel, they had forsaken the love of the Gospel. They were moving forward but not going deeper, just as I had started doing on my runs. Challenged with my need to go deeper versus further, I redirected my focus back to Jesus during my runs and chose to once again meet Him in that space. That joy and peace started creeping back into my heart and my runs became a space of connectivity again, and my day was so much better for it.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT Think about your space today, your coming and going. Are you aware of Him, or are you too focused on them? Are the things around you robbing you of the opportunity to commune with the One within you? Is your joy fleeting and dependent upon the circumstances unfolding to your right or to your left or is it steady and consistent, always present, even when it’s hard? The Church of Ephesus was called to return back to their first love. To pursue Him above all else. What does returning back look like for you? Make a decision today to start putting that into practice.
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