Markers along the way
This morning I jogged five miles. Well, sort of. At the start my shirt, shorts, socks, and shoes were fresh. The Fitbit registered zeros on every setting except for the measly fifty steps it took me to get down to the street. I was as bright eyed and bushy tailed as a guy my age could be. Two and half miles later, at the midpoint, I was sucking wind. Every inch of my fat body was covered in sweat. My socks and shoes were soaked. With eyeglasses fogged I couldn't even decipher the readings on my Fitbit. Mr. Tackle the World at the start had morphed into Mr. I Hate Jogging half way through and I wished someone would give me a ride home.
It's just a simple 67 year old lament about the way the road toughens up along the way. At the start there's a challenge to charge the batteries and ignite the inner propulsion system that makes us expect a new world five mile record. It was akin to the many first days of life---the college knob with Phi Beta Kappa dreams, the new employee who visits the corner office before the execs arrive, rookie parents who are going to raise the next President or Nobel Prize winner, or the pastor who's going to lead the next Great Awakening. The start is often super-charged with explosive energy, optimism, and expectations off the charts. Along the way some of that positive stuff is dampened by the wet blanket of reality.
BTW, a couple of things happened along the way in my slog (slow + jog) this morning. They were markers that gave me a push when the dark side invaded my mind as I stumbled across the 2.5 mile turnaround, ready to call it a day.
1. I remembered that I was jogging on Elizabeth Street in Garden City, SC. I chose
that street because it set my mind on my second favorite female, our daughter
Elizabeth. Touching that marker when losing heart flashed across my screen
was a jolt that raised everything. Thanks, Liz.
2. There was the man I encountered along the way. He looked about my age. He
was in an electric wheelchair. As I passed he said, "Looking good. Wish I could
join you". That thought was like a kick in the pants---a gentle reminder of being
in good enough health to be out there in the first place.
3. Earlier I had turned up a side street and passed a house with four older
couples, evidently on vacation, sitting on the porch. They had clapped and
cheered when I slogged by their house. A little applause quickens the step.
4. About one fourth of the way out a young woman passed me on the road. She
was good looking, dressed in fine running attire, and was walking. Faster than
my slog. Let's talk about the competitive juices flowing as i recalled that
5. At the turn I could still hear the faint sound of the ocean calling me back to my
starting place. I couldn't stop.
These were all simple reminders of several events that had marked memorable things along the way. They helped me to resist the impulse of quitting.
Spiritual markers are a distinct check point when the going gets tough. It's a strong biblical concept too, the idea of spiritual markers. Joshua recorded a time of spiritual significance in the journey of Israel when they entered the promised land---
And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve
stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of
the people of Israel, just as the Lord told Joshua. And they carried them over with
them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there.
Joshua 4:8, ESV
Henry and Richard Blackaby taught this concept in their Experiencing God study. In a devotional about markers the Blackabys defined them as a "time of decision when you clearly knew that God guided you." They further advise, "Keep track of these important moments! Regularly rehearse them and notice the steady progression in the way God has led you. This will help you understand God’s activity in your life and give you a sense of direction as you face future decisions." Checking the markers along the way remind us of the consistent provision of God as we move past the start and continue, even when the rigors wear us and tempt us along the way.
Regardless of our calling or the challenges that confront us in pursuing it the markers along the way refresh the purpose and mission we have been called to fulfill. Today, when counseling pastors and spiritual leaders, not to mention teachers, married couples, parents, career professionals, health care workers, frustrated government employees, those serving criminal justice, or anyone seeking to complete the race laid out for them, I always ask them to rehearse the spiritual markers they've noted along the way. They are counseled to record them and study them when they are confronted with extremes that weigh heavily, especially those moments when the inner voices are screaming to quit.
On one of our seven trips to Israel we were traveling through the Jordan Valley, down close to the Dead Sea. In the lowest, most level place on earth. I noticed, however, that the road was curved and jagged. So, I asked our guide why the roadway was such a winding path. He told me that it was curved to avoid crossing special places, usually marked by a pile of stones, that someone had placed in memory of an event that had taken place there. They even plot highways around those stones as a memorial to something momentous. They knew the joy of remembering those markers.
In a funk? Ready to quit? Touch base with the markers along the way as an incentive to finish the course.