“I’ve come to think sometimes that maybe I’m running a race I wasn’t asked to run.”
A friend of mine said this to me recently, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. It’s a phrase that hits me right between the eyes. It hurts my heart to say it. When the words come out they sound like grief. Like falling down and not being able to get up. So tired and weary and worn from running and running and running at a pace too fast for me and towards a place I never wanted to be. I fall down and cannot get up again. I can’t keep running. So I stay here. I give up. I stop trying.
Old fearful beliefs speak: “You’re running towards God, you can’t stop now. If you don’t keep going you won’t make it, you’ll miss him.” But the god these thoughts speak of is a god always waiting on a horizon, in the unreachable space where ocean meets sky. No matter how many miles I run, I am never one step closer to that horizon. It keeps itself at a distance. If this is the god I’m asked to run towards, I gladly give up. It makes me think sometimes that maybe I’m running a race I was never asked to run.
I can stop running and lay down right here. I can rest in the dust I’ve been kicking up and let it settle now, on and around me. If I look around I might find that what I’ve been running towards is not set on an unreachable horizon, but is permanent, grounded, inherent, immanent, right here, right now, in the present. The God I want is the one who is near when I give up and stop trying. One who gives a cup of cold water while I sit in defeat. Who feeds me a meal here in the wilderness. Who lays next to me all night and we look at the stars. The God who I do not walk towards in the exhaustion of unending effort and activity, but who walks with me, though I no longer know where I’m going. This wearisome race is then transformed into a peaceful walk, where the destination is less important than the wandering.
God, there’s much I’ve missed so far, being in such a hurry to keep up the pace. But now I don’t care. It’s what’s around me that matters—what’s here and now—not what’s up ahead or out there.
After all, isn’t the name Immanuel—God with us?
We don’t need to run a race we have not been asked to run.