Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The fourth plague of Pharoah and the worst run ever

I didn't see it coming.  It was an unseasonably warm late afternoon, a deep blue sky and all the trees of the forest still clung to the last leaves of the season.  I couldn't wait to run one of my all-time favorite routes.

My husband Bill dropped me off where the asphalt ended and the gravel road began, a way which meandered back to the trail head where he would be fishing and where we would meet up in a half hour or so.

That narrow primitive road trespasses through God's creation like a gallery of fine art, winding alongside a scenic mountain stream.  I rarely pay attention to the fact that it is a continual and gradual three miles uphill.  The ascent is negated by breathtaking views around every bend.

But this time, there was something else that was breathtaking in quite a different sense.

I had been running for maybe a mile, delighting in the warm air and the quietness of hearing only my shoes crunching the gravel underneath and the occasional song of a passing bird.  I felt something on my neck.  I brushed it away, not slackening my pace.  And then, I felt pinpricks on my upper left arm.  I turned to look, expecting to see the same pesky fly.  But I saw four creeping black flies, not just landing on my arm, but biting me.  I hit my arm with my other hand.  They fled.  Ewwwww, enough of that, I thought.

And then, I felt biting on my other arm.  Six attended a buffet there.  I looked down.  My running pants were crawling with flies.  My exposed lower legs had a party going on.  One buzzed my ear.  A fraternity had congregated on the brim of my cap.  I could see them lined up like a string of lights along the edge.

I slapped right and left.  For every one I hit, four took its place. Right arm, left arm, like an invasion. I ran faster, trying to outpace this cloud of flies.  I had no where to turn... or to turn back to.  There was nothing behind me for two miles.  There was no place to hide.  I had to run on. My arms were red from slapping at the flies.  My hands felt bruised.  And still, the siege continued.

And I thought, "This is what desperation looks like."  If the wildest-looking, weirdest stranger had come driving by, I would have jumped in his pick-up truck.  Desperate people do desperate things, I often say.  And I was living it.

This was no longer an idyllic place, but a nightmare happening in 3-D.  Run, run, run.  I focused on "God will get you through this."

And then when they began buzzing my ears and eyes, I repeated outloud, "The LORD will get you through this."

And for the last mile of that desperate run, as I drew closer to where our old truck was parked, God impressed on my heart, "I will get you through."

I rounded the last bend.  Our truck appeared, few other cars joined it in the primitive parking area.  Flies bombarded my legs like kamikaze pilots as I pulled out my heavy fleece shirt from the truck, something, anything to protect my arms.  I was sweating like a race horse, but my arms were covered.  I zipped it all the way up my neck.

I took off in a sprint, up the trail towards the fishing hole.  And by the time I reached my husband, there was nary a fly in sight.

He looked up, standing amidst an incredible place of beauty, water splashing over rocks in an idyllic mountain stream, an entirely different world than I had just experienced. 

 "How was your run?" he asked.

"Worst run ever," I cried out.

"Really?"  He raised one eyebrow.

Even worse than when you fell and had to get stitches in your knee?

Even worse than when you tripped, dislocated your finger and had to run 2 1/2 miles back to the car?

Even worse than when it was 36 degrees and sleeting and you had to run eight miles?

Yes, even worse than that.

And as I followed him downstream, greatly relieved that my plague of flies was over, I remembered that time in the sleet was when Bill most encouraged me, "If you can run in that, nothing in the marathon can throw you."
Everyone struggles with something in life.  Everyone.  There are tough places, there are hard places, there are dark places, there are biting flies, and all through the Bible, God says, "Look to Me.  Do not fear.  I am with you."

That is not positive thinking.  That is the reality of God.

What kept me going through that desperation
was realizing,
"There will be things in life
                         a lot harder than this."

And God says,
         "I will strengthen you in it, through it, from it."
Learn perseverance from this.

For runners who are training for a race, training programs include short sprints, long slow distance runs, days of rest or cross-training, and grueling hill workouts.

That, indeed, was one of those grueling hill workouts.

Whatever course you are on,
       keep running, my friend.
You are not running alone.

Things and circumstances may not be any different on the outside of what you face,  but the invisible made visible is the power of God.

...let us run with perseverance
the race that is set before us,
            looking to Jesus...

                 Hebrews 12. 1-2

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