When I ran my first marathon in October 2011 I weighed in at a svelte 232 pounds, about 22 pounds heavier than I would have liked to. The reason this is significant is simply this. Can you imagine what it is like to carry a bag slung over your shoulder with about 20 odd pounds of stones that you’ve picked up along the way? Probably as uncomfortable as running a marathon with about 20 odd pounds too much weight. It’s going to slow you down along the way and it’s most likely going to color your experiences in a way where you won’t enjoy them as much as possible.
If you let your experiences be colored by the weight you’re carrying around.
But what if you didn’t have to carry that bag with all those stones around? Would you feel a little lighter, have a little more spring in your step? Most likely, just the same as my not noticing that I carried around an extra 20 pounds through Washington DC that day. On the contrary, I thoroughly enjoyed every single mile, so much that about mile 21 I ran backwards more than a mile to check on some friends and make sure they were doing okay. I crossed that finish line and it was all such a blur, maybe through the tears, or maybe because the sights and sounds were all just so overwhelming. I did something that a year earlier I never would have thought possible. I finished a marathon, plus an extra couple miles, and the joy of crossing that line marked a tremendous period in my life. In fact, I have not been the same since. Who I am as a husband, follower of Jesus, business person, runner and friend is so much different from before I ran that first marathon.
And I owe it all to one thing and one thing only. I actually believed a Bible verse and decided to start living as if I really did believe it. Philippians 3:12-14 “Not that I have already obtained all this (see verses 1-11), or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Let’s just concentrate for a second on one little sentence that just sneaks in there but begs us to take hold of it because in this ultra marathon of life if we don’t we are going to miss out on an awful lot of enjoyment and peace. “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,……..” The day I began training for my first marathon I was carrying around a lot more than physical weight, I was carrying around a virtual duffel bag of past regrets, past failures, past should have’s, past what if’s, past second thoughts and even some past victories. I carried this weight around because I didn’t know what to do with them quite frankly. I believed the Bible (well most of it), I tried my best to live the Word of God, but I was carrying around so much baggage and not letting go of things that I was weighted down and I didn’t even know it. I knew what to do with the physical weight, eat right and exercise, rinse and repeat. Try as I might though and even though this verse is one of my life verses and I can repeat it to you verbatim in the middle of the night if shaken awake, I could not find a training plan to get rid of the past and I just kept carrying it.
Until one day something in my brain and my heart clicked all at once. Out on a run, why not since all good things happen to me on a run, I was out running around the lake near our house on a very early morning and suddenly it just hit me like a ton of bricks. It hit so hard I had to stop on the path and walk down by the water to make sure I got it mentally sorted out. See when my wife and I were met at the airport in Norfolk VA after flaming out so abruptly from our time in Kazakhstan, our pastor, mentor and friend met us there. He didn’t try to soften the blow or come up with great answers but he said one thing that it took me almost three years to process correctly. He said “feel the feelings, but seek the truth.” In other words we were going to feel a lot of things and none of the feelings were false, they were all real. But in feeling the feelings, the rawness of failure and disappointment this incredible man wanted us to look deeper, way past the surface greetings of “how you doing?” because nobody really wanted to hear how crappy I felt that day, it was just a greeting. There is truth beneath the pain, beneath the disappointment and beneath the past. However, if you never allow yourself to get to the past, you’ll never discover the trails that have already been developed for you. That little simple truth began an incredible journey of recovery for me. I began looking for truth in each and every stone I was carrying in my duffel bag of my past. Once I took each stone out and began to look for truth in each one I discovered that I didn’t have to put the stone back in my duffel bag of the past anymore. I could move on from that past and I could strive for the future that was already out there for me.
The following series of posts are intentional ways to begin to see the future of what is out there for you. By the end of these next ten posts (one every other day) you are going to be taking stones out of your bag and dropping them off. You are going to find truth in the pain and truth in the failures and truth in the baggage you’re carrying and your load is going to be lightened. This is not an ending, it is the beginning of your glorious future and I cannot wait to see your future unfold.