A few years ago, I took up jogging. I’m not a serious runner. Two 3-mile runs a week and a handful of 5ks a year are the extent of my commitment. It’s what my schedule comfortably allows. I mean, I like jogging but I’m not willing to get up before 7:30 to do it, and if I don’t do it first thing in the day, it doesn’t get done.
Running is a dangerous hobby for me—and not just because I managed to fall flat on my face (literally) during my cool down walk one morning. It gives me time to think of all kinds of things that are way deeper or way weirder (or both) than I normally come up with. Somehow, these deep, weird thoughts usually revolve around what tracks are on my running playlist. For instance, a couple of weeks ago, I was bopping along to The Tractors Baby Likes to Rock It. Yes, I know that dates me. Anyway, they get to the line, “She said her name was ’emergency’ and asked to see my gun / Said her telephone number was 911,” and I wondered if my friend who is a 9-1-1 dispatcher had ever told someone that in a social situation. Weird. (I asked her, and she said she hadn’t but that now she was going to have too. Also weird, but we’re friends for a reason.) The other day, I was jogging along to another oldie-but-goodie, End of the Line by the Traveling Wilburys, and found it somewhat poetic that I was making my way down an old railroad grade turned rec trail and not getting any younger. See what I mean? Weird and deep. Somewhat unsettling for someone not accustomed to deep.
Several months ago, I signed up to run a Ragnar Sunset Relay with my sister and a couple friends. A team of four people divides a marathon into 6.5-mile legs. Each person runs one leg to finish the marathon before the sun sets. It would be over twice as far as I had ever gone, but a girl needs a good challenge once in a while, and a full Ragnar isn’t going to happen for me. I trained hard. Up hills. In the blazing hot sun. And, I threw some worship music on the end of my race-day playlist. I knew by mile 5 I was going to need Jesus.
Right around mile 6 this <ahem> very nice looking <ahem> young man comes up on my left and lops easily past me. Maybe 25-ish, no shirt, lean, toned muscles, tan, glistening with sweat—not real sweat, the kind like a magazine ad for running shoes. My sorry, old-enough-to-be-this-guy’s-mother, 46-year-old, vertically-challenged self was drenched with enough sweat (and not the pretty glistening kind) to fill a pool. Struggling to breathe (I may be exaggerating a bit on the breathing), I was wondering how a half-mile could seem so impossibly long. The first thought through my head was, “How is it that he looks so good in sweat?” Followed by, “How in the world can he make this look so easy?” And then I catch a glimpse of the cross necklace flipped to his back for the race. It wasn’t just a small cross either—probably a good 4” tall. So I think, “Just follow the cross,” as I turn up Hillsong’s No Other Name on my phone coupled with a quick prayer of, “Jesus, just let me finish—soon.” Never mind that within 15 feet he’s so far ahead of me I can’t even see him or the cross anymore. Then the deep thoughts kick in.
Just because this guy is wearing a cross necklace doesn’t mean he’s actually a Christian. There are plenty of people running around that wear crosses as a fashion statement or because their grandmother gave them one as a present. And there is the possibility that he says he’s a Christian but really isn’t. Plenty of people think they are Christians but aren’t exactly in a relationship with Christ. Sometimes we are lured into following after something or someone appealing just because they are sporting a cross. Thinking we are chasing Christ, we discover much later that we weren’t chasing Christ at all. We find ourselves following after the human being delivering the message rather than the Giver of the message, the worship song or artist rather than the One worthy of worship, the image of the cross rather than The Cross. Okay, God, I got the point. And the distraction of this little self-sermon gets me far enough to see the hand-off tent where my teammate is waiting to grab our team bib from me and make up for the time I’ve delayed us. Jesus had taken me to the finish line with a message. Deep.