One morning when I awoke, I listened for the sound of the waves. “The tide is out,” I thought. There would be enough hard sand on the shore to run. I opened my eyes and saw a flash of lightening; “So much for running,” was my next thought. I wanted so much to go watch the sunrise as I ran. It is such an important part of why I love the beach. I hear God in the perfect recipe of the sunrise, the crash of the waves, the footprint of my running shoe in the sand, the sound of my breath, the fatigue of my legs and the quiet of my mind. Instead, I pulled out my Bible and read about Gideon and how the Israelites, time and again underestimated God and wandered away to do their own thing (Judges 6-8). I read a devotional based on Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish and how the disciples still questioned how the next group of people would be fed (Matthew 14).
After my reading, I got out of bed. I put on my running clothes and shoes and opened the door to witness the most amazing sunrise. There was a thundercloud in the horizon and the sky blazed with bright pinks and oranges. It was amazing. I stepped out onto the beach and looked to the south; it was just the way I wanted to begin my run. It was quiet—very few people, no high-rise condo buildings, nothing to interrupt the solitude. The beach was smoother, too, an easier run, but if I wanted to watch the sunrise, this amazing work of art God was painting before my eyes, I would have to go north.
I could already see people littering the beach that way and the buildings rising along the shoreline. I looked at the sky again and began to run north. The sunrise was absolutely beautiful. Bright oranges, pinks and purples surrounded the clouds, the sun rose above them, blazing orange and streaks of light filled the sky. My lesson for the morning, however, was not in the sky. As I skipped through tide pools like obstacle courses, looking for a dry place to put my foot, I thought about how life is like that. It’s not a nice, smooth beach of sand. Sometimes I have my pace set; I’m running through the days of life and I come to a rough patch. It forces me to change my pace, choose my steps more carefully and seek out the Creator of my path to make sure the next step is the right one. Slowing down, changing course, it’s not always a bad thing. “Your ways are not my ways, says the LORD.” (Isaiah 55:7-9). I looked up at the sunrise, just like in life; the beauty is worth having to change my pace.
There was a man fishing; he made eye contact and wished me good morning. I smiled and returned the greeting, anxious to get back to my pace and my thoughts. He wanted to talk more, so I stopped. We talk about the sunrise, the spectacular lightening show he witnessed in the sky this morning and told me a little about himself. I wished him a good day and returned to my run. I thought about how much my life is like this encounter. I’m in the middle of something, pursuing my goals or deadlines or just simply not wanting to break the pace of life when God puts someone in my path that needs something I can give because of what He has given me.
I looked up at the sunrise. The beauty of it, just like the beauty of reaching out to someone in need, is worth the break in my pace. I was to the part of the beach with the high-rise condo buildings, which did not add to the beauty of the morning. However, when I looked right instead of left, I saw the massive ocean, the beauty of the continuing assent of the sun. Life is like that, too, right? There is so much ugliness in the landscape of our lives. I can easily be drawn into focusing on that ugliness or I can choose to see the beauty that God has placed in my life. God says he works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:27-29); it doesn’t get any more beautiful than that.
I had to turn around. My legs were tired and my body weak. I’d made very few good choices that week when it came to eating and my body was feeling the effects of the lack of fuel. My life is like that, too. Sometimes I choose to focus on the wrong things: worry, things that don’t feed my spirit, the negatives of life. I run out of fuel for my days or the things life brings my way. God tells me to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17), Jesus says he is the bread of life (John 6:35). What does my life diet consist of?
As I finished my run, I start to notice the people around me. A couple was walking together, but looking as if they were miles apart. A young mother was trying to enjoy the sunrise as her two young boys ran along the beach and her husband tried to wrangle them in. She looked tired and distracted. What had brought these people to this place in time? What choices or decisions had they made? What would they do differently if they could? I know what regret and disappointment feel like. Thank you, Jesus, that all things become new in you (II Corinthians 5:17). I no longer have to wish I could change the past. I only have to focus on what the Master has planned for right now.
I finished my run strong. I was thankful for the beauty of the morning, the beauty of life and the beauty of the unplanned stuff of life: the rough patches, the distractions of life and the people who enter my life, the things that fuel my days with positive things and the grace that forgives my past. Most of all, I’m thankful for a God who speaks into my life through the beauty of a sunrise and the unplanned stuff of a run.
Written by Bonnie Burnside. Excerpt from Run for God – Devotions v1
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