I often get up early in the morning and walk with my beautiful black lab, Maggie. I do this partially to exercise her growing body, but also, to have some time for myself and get focused and energized for my day. Usually, we jog or walk at a great pace, in unison- our route memorized, our path set out before us. However, one day last week, something was NOT quite right. We did NOT move in unison, she had a “mind of her own,” so to speak, and she was NOT going to follow the planned route and pace. Sometimes she pulled me faster than I needed to go yanking me forward, my feet barely able to keep up. Then, she would slow down to a crawl pulling back, twisting me making it difficult to move forward at all. During the entire walk, she was constantly bumping into my leg slightly trying to move me over ever so slightly. I had to focus not to lose balance! And just when I thought we figured out our stride, something scared her from out of nowhere and she cut in front of me, jerking me completely to the side. Again, I struggled to stay upright and on track. When we finally got home, I was so thankful to be done. I couldn’t believe how difficult a simple walk could be! “What in the world was that all about?” I wondered.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized my walk with Maggie was a lot like the way our paths to good physical fitness can be. Sometimes we are pulled ahead toward a goal too quickly. We see something in our future (weight loss, increased strength) and we speed up our workout schedule…if we do this too quickly, we can end up “straining” instead of “training”. Other times, our walk toward a healthier life can be slow. Things about us from our past (injuries, fears, old negative habits) can hold us back, making it difficult to move forward. And, let’s face it; life is always bumping into our path to physical fitness. The daily little “bumps” in our schedules- work late, doctor’s appointments, vacations, too many errands to run- all of these things make it just a little bit harder to stay on track. These annoyances are nothing compared to the big life issues that can completely pull us off course if we let them. Sometimes we can experience the unexpected- an injury or family emergency can pull us into another direction. We may get off course, briefly, but we slow down our pace, readjust, and get back on the path to health. That path will always be there when we are ready to return to it!
Our faith walk can also have “Maggie” moments. Sometimes we may have a faith goal (ministry, outreach, new Bible Study) we move head-long into training in our faith, moving with great speed. This is sometimes good, we feel stretched and challenged by this new discipline. Other times, however, we are pulled into believing that more, or faster, is better. If someone else is good at this ministry or that spiritual discipline, then we must be too. It is in this time that our spiritual training can be spiritually draining! Other times, we are held back from walking in faith by the things of our past. Although we are a new creation in Christ, we sometimes hold on too tightly to our “old” self (I am not good with people…I can’t pray in public!) and avoid moving ahead in our faith journey. Of course, our daily lives and the many things of this world constantly bump into our faith walk. The same things that can gently nudge us off course in our fitness, can nudge us off course in our faith. Busy schedules, work, and home responsibilities often keep us from our daily faith exercises that keep us on our path. But there are times when we are broadsided by the unexpected, things that are not part of the plan, not on the path, not part of the walk. It is in this time when we can be completely pulled off course, and perhaps knocked to the ground by tragedy or pain. However, if we have a strong CORE, a solid faith foundation, we will be “righted”. Perhaps we might have to slow down, or maybe stop, TURN AROUND, and get back on the path that God has placed before us. This Path has been, and will always be there, waiting for our return. Whether we run, walk, or crawl along it, God’s mercy and grace will be there to guide us and keep us moving toward the goal which is set before us.
Philippians 3:12-21- The Message
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them…But there’s far more to life for us.. We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.