Updated: May 15, 2020
For most of my life I hated running. While I’ve made peace with the activity in recent years and have been forced to admit begrudgingly that I can enjoy it at times, for much of my life I treated it with disdain. Don’t get me wrong, I loved sports that required running such as basketball, football, soccer, etc. However, going on a run for the sake of running held no appeal. It was boring, monotonous, uncomfortable, suffering without cause.
Toward the end of my freshman year at Walla Walla University I met a girl. How we met is a story for another day, but after hanging out once or twice I was hooked and began looking for opportunities to spend more time with her. After some contemplation, I came up with a brilliant plan. It was a week before Bloomsday, a 10K race in Spokane, Washington that I participated in annually, not because I enjoyed running it, but because of the social opportunities it afforded and the free T-Shirt. I decided I would head out to “train” and could then swing by her apartment because I “happened to be running in the neighborhood.” A round trip to Taco Bell was approximately the same distance as the race, and the route would take me within a reasonable distance of her apartment if the purpose of my trip was ever called into question.
They say the joy is in the Journey. Clearly, they have never made an ill-advised run to Taco Bell and back with no prior training. My muscles ached, my joints hurt, the boredom was agonizing. That hour and a half of suffering, in and of itself was simply wasted time I’ll never get back. It held no value in preparing me to participate in the upcoming race. In fact, my knee swelled up so badly that I was forced to walk Bloomsday to collect my free shirt the next week, while she ran ahead with another group of friends. What possessed me to make such an uncharacteristic decision? It was a small price to pay for the chance to spend an hour of time with the most amazing person that I have ever met. It’s been 20 years since that run to Taco Bell, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Have you ever been “in love”? Think about the different emotions that you felt. The rush of excitement, exhilaration of being able to connect with someone so amazing. You’d do anything just to for a few moments together. Your heart longs to be with them. Love leads you to do all kinds of crazy things you wouldn’t typically do because you care so much for them. Did you know that this is how God describes His desire to be with you? Being in love and the marriage relationship are two of the primary metaphors in scripture.
In John 14 Jesus says that he is going to prepare a place for his followers. He is referring to a Jewish custom of the time where the groom to be would leave his fiancé to make a place for the two of them to live. (This usually came in the form of an addition to his father’s house.) When it was finished, there would be a huge party and the groom would lead a procession to go and collect his bride. Imagine the longing the groom to be would feel as he was required to spend time away from the love of his life during this process. Imagine the longing, the sense of expectancy and excitement his fiancé would feel as she waited.
The Bible makes it clear how God feels about me. What isn’t always as clear is how I feel about God. I was willing to endure torture in the form of a 7-mile run just to spend some time with a girl I was in the process of getting to know. What am I willing to do to actually get to know God? I think now more than ever Christians struggle to connect with God. We are busier as humans than we have ever been in earth’s history. Our phones provide a constant connection to work and entertainment. Even those of us in ministry have a tendency to be so busy “doing” things for God that we neglect to spend time just “being” in God’s presence. We feel like if we are producing things for God it makes us spiritual. Even learning information about God doesn’t necessarily mean we are actually getting to know God. Unless we are intentional about creating time and space to connect with God, the opportunity will generally pass us by.
Twenty years ago, I went for a run, on purpose, intentionally creating time to get to know a girl. I’m still learning to apply that same intentionality in getting to know the Creator of the Universe. But here’s what I’ve noticed. When I actually take the time to develop my friendship with God, I’m amazed at what I find. God is so much greater than a list of attributes, rules and regulations. I find myself beginning to have some of those feelings of love that come from a true relationship. I’m disappointed when I miss my chance to in God’s presence. I’m actually excited to develop a deeper understanding of connection with this being who was willing to sacrifice so much just to be with me.
What emotions have you felt during times of love? Does your relationship with God tend to evoke any of these same emotions? Why do you think that God used word pictures of romantic love and marriage to describe the way he feels about us? Do you find it challenging to feel love toward God? How often do you spend time with God? How often do you spend time listening to God? What are some of the barriers that keep you from progressing with your friendship with God? What is something you can do this week to be more intentional about building that relationship?