I had no idea why I called her, other than God had told me to. She had nothing to say. So He prompted me to pray for her that she would have the courage to say whatever she needed to say to whomever she needed to say it. Little did I know exactly what God had in mind. Little did I know, in fact, He would take two dear friends who are both experts at running away and teach them a significant lesson in why it’s important to STOP RUNNING AWAY. And little did I know the person my friend needed courage to be honest with was me!
“I pray that you would give my friend the courage and boldness to be honest, and to say whatever she needs to say, whether it’s to you, God, to someone else, to whomever,” I prayed. There, that was it. Surely the brief conversation was over, right? I was pretty clear God had told me to call her, but why was it that she had nothing to say to me?
Okay, time to get off the phone, right? Not quite. My friend and I may be experts in running, but this time around God was going to put His foot down.
“Okay, I guess I do have something to say,” my friend began. “I was with a group of people,” she began, and she continued on. Then she mentioned how she had shared with them about a conversation we had had a few days earlier. Surely she would have something nice to say about what a fine job I had done in speaking to her that day about something that I had felt was very important. Pride walked onto the scene nice and quickly, but was quickly stopped in its tracks! So much for my thinking she was about to say something pleasing to the hears – not to mention heart. I guess it served me right for praying God would give her boldness!
“Well,” my friend continued, now that my prayer had been answered that she would have courage and boldness. Hey, wait a minute. I wasn’t praying God would give her courage to speak honestly to me! Not unless it had to do with her or someone else anyway. Not so. Go figure. My friend, with a long history like myself of running away, needed the courage to say something to me that was honest – and hard. Hard for her to say, hard for me to hear.
Within just a few minutes, my friend had been granted the courage to confront me – in love, mind you – about how I had just days ago mustered up the courage to confront her – without love, mind you. Oh boy! More like, oh God!
My immediate response? Run! Run! Run! My friend, who for years has had a history of running away from our friendship for periods of time when she was upset with me about something instead of telling me, at last has the courage to speak the truth to me – the hard truth, mind you. And what do you think I wanted to do? Run! No, I didn’t want to disappear from our friendship. I simply wanted to, well, how can I say it? Close my eyes to the truth – another form of running, isn’t it?
So I listened. Politely. Well, “politely”. I “politely” responded with what I had to say. Then I listened some more. Then the Holy Spirit decided to do His thing. He has a full-time job with me not just loving and teaching me, but convicting me when I’ve taken a fall. Definitely full-time with me. Ahem.
Well, wouldn’t you know, within a very short period of time, I had made the decision to stop running – and to listen. Not just to my friend, but to God. The next thing I knew, I repented and asked both my friend and the Lord to forgive me. I saw with total clarity what I had done wrong. I was able to hear God speak through my courageous friend.
And, long story short, two expert runners made the decision to STOP RUNNING AWAY. No matter how much any of us think we can run from people, from friends or strangers, from situations or circumstances, from hurdles, obstacles, questions, whatever, we can never, of course, run successfully from the Lord. Because even in our hiding places, even in the places we have run off to, no matter how we have chosen to run, He knows where we are – in our lives, and also in our hearts.
For those of us who are expert runners, like my friend and I, our job is not to stop running. It is to stop running away. For there is a form of running we are called to do. We are called by the Lord to run with Him. To run the race that is set before us. To lay aside the burdens and the sins that weigh us down so we are in tip top shape to run this race He has placed in front of us. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I can say this for myself. I’ve run myself ragged from all the kinds of running I’ve done in my life. But when I run the race the Lord has given me to run, He gives me the love, the strength, the grace, and the mercy to run it. Not to run it alone, either. To run it with my fellow runners. Not a sprint. Not a short race. But to go the distance. To run the race – mile by mile – with the Lord standing at the finish, coaching His runners along as we press on toward the greatest prize in the universe. The Lord!
1“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1