My daily run took me down a winding country road on which were scattered a few houses here and there. Beside one particular curve of the road was an empty pasture that always attracted my attention. Not because in itself it was anything to note; it was not. But rather because this is where the sun would meet me as it began to peek above the treetops in the early morning. And somehow as the rays broke through and spread their magic wide, even the plain, empty pasture became a thing of beauty. I’ve always loved to watch the sun rise and our meeting place there was an added incentive to get out of bed and go because that moment to meet would not wait.
That day was like many others in the routine of running. I got up, had my coffee, laced up my shoes and headed out. I did the same things as always, yet before I’d even made it to the halfway mark I was struggling. My immediate thoughts were “STOP! It’s too hard today. Just go home and try again tomorrow.” I wanted to quit. It seemed so hard and my rhythm felt off. Something wasn’t right. I managed to keep putting one foot in front of the other as I went through a running checklist of sorts:
Am I in pain? no
Are my shoes laced too tight? no
Am I running too fast? no
Are my shoulders tense? no
Is my heart rate too high? no
Is my breathing labored? no
Am I sensing any dangers (creepy people or antagonistic animals)? no
Then what’s wrong? nothing
The fact was there was nothing wrong. That was when God spoke. He began to talk to me about how fickle our emotions are and if we listen to them they will have us stopping and starting and stopping and starting so often that we will lose heart and give up on whatever we are pursuing. There was nothing wrong with me on that run, but my feelings and thoughts made a valiant effort to get me to quit. Weird.
We’ve all experienced this. We’re making progress in our love walk with someone we need to forgive. Things are going well, we’ve interacted with them without the anger and resentment of the past. Then one day, for no apparent reason, we are mad all over again at the injustice done to us! Nothing has changed, no further harm has been inflicted, yet our emotions are feeding our thoughts. They scream to the love that forgives “STOP! I can’t do this!” And if we listen, they will take us back to the beginning and hold us captive to the pain.
Oh, it’s not just about forgiveness. It’s in the commitments we make, the constant demands of family life, our work, our relationships with friends, and yes, our relationship with Jesus. We read and we study and the desire to be an all-out Jesus follower is there. We make progress in our prayer closet and determination is at its peak. Then one day we wake up and for no apparent reason we just want to stop trying. We want to quit on the deeper things and settle for being saved and having a home in heaven because it just seems too hard to keep going at this pace. We feel like we are struggling too much and our life rhythm is off – surely those are the indicators that something is wrong and we don’t need to continue…
Learning the difference between being led by His Spirit in us or led by our souls (mind, will, emotions) is critical in our pursuit of becoming like Him. I’ve learned to do a spiritual checklist of sorts when my feelings are out of kilter:
Am I hurting? maybe
Has the outward circumstance changed? maybe
If I change my direction, will I still be following Jesus? oh……
Discovering that I am not at the mercy of my emotions and that they are a very poor life navigator has freed me to listen more clearly to what He has to say and to stay on course. I pushed through that run many years ago and felt a stronger sense of accomplishment than even on many of the days I ran further distances. It was an important lesson learned that took me into and through the much longer runs that would follow. Sometimes you just have to ignore how you feel, focus on the facts, and push through.
And it’s the same with following Jesus. He warned us that following Him and doing things His way would take us into areas that were uncomfortable and difficult. Then He assured us that He would be with us and would give us everything we need to make it through. Left to our emotions, some days we will follow Him and other days not so much. We get to choose.
What’s He urging you to push through? Me? I’m still learning to push through the challenge of being still. And again I say, Weird. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but my feelings often tell me I should be doing more, be more productive, get busier. And when I fall for it, I’m frustrated in doing things I don’t really want to do, knowing that I’ve let my emotions get me off course. Thank you, God, for new mercies every morning!
Sitting here in my comfy pjs with a hot cup of coffee and looking out the window at some gloomy skies, I’m tempted to just crawl back into bed. But I’ve got a lot to do today, so I need to run. No, really, it’s time to run… 🙂
“Pushing through (God speaks running, part 2)” was written by Kay Stinnett and first appeared on http://www.ourpassionatepurpose.com