Awkward Races, Disrupted Paces, Part 2

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.”

Ruth 1:20-21

Many times awkward starting lines will launch you into amazing adventures! That’s what happened to Ruth. Together, she and Naomi traveled miles across the Jordan River, through a scorching desert and arrived in the town of Bethlehem. All the people there, who had stayed behind all those years when Naomi and her family left, were still residents of this little town. When they saw her they immediately remembered her…“Hey, it’s Naomi! She’s back!”

However, when Naomi returned to her hometown she wasn’t celebrating. She was at a low point, beaten down and defeated by her circumstances. She blamed God when it was her husband, Elimelek, who led their family away from Bethlehem. (God must get so tired of taking the blame for our lousy choices!)

Let’s not be too hard on Naomi. I’m sure as a wife and mom, she had her own dreams of how life would turn out, and this was not it! Her life had been disrupted by the consequences of bad choices and storms of life. Because she was back in Bethlehem, the place where she had started, she felt like her race was over, failing to realize that it was really just the beginning of something amazing.

You may find yourself in a similar place in your own race. You were off to a good start, passionate about living your life on purpose, running at a great pace. Then something happened that stopped you in your tracks and made you feel like you couldn’t go on. You find yourself in a place of disrupted pace. All of us have been in this place at one time or another. Our mistaken steps trip us up and we beat ourselves down.

I’m an Olympic nerd. I love track and field. I love seeing the metaphor of “running with perseverance” come to life. I remember back in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain runner Derek Redmond, who had qualified for the semifinal with the fastest time in his heat, was favored to win the gold medal in the 400-meter event. He started off strong when suddenly he jerked back with an agonizing look of pain on his face. He had torn his hamstring. Rather than fall to the ground he kept going, limping through the searing injury with tears streaming down his face. He was determined to finish. Unexpectedly, there was a stirring on the sidelines and breaking through security, a man leapt up to Derek’s side – it was his father! “Son, you don’t have to do this,” he said. “Yes I do,” said Redmond. “Then we’ll finish together,” his father replied. Off they went, finishing the race together with the crowd on their feet cheering them all the way.

I believe that some of us today are like Derek Redmond. Our pace has been disrupted; we’re injured and we hurt. We need someone to come alongside to encourage us and hold us accountable.

Some others may be the “dad.” You’ve gone through some storms yourself – as you have run your race you have found Jesus to be faithful. God wants to use you to speak life over others. To tell them “the truest thing about them is what God says about them.”

Whether you relate to the son or the father in this illustration, God’s plan is that as you run your race you do it with others – never alone. How different the story would have turned out if Ruth had not tagged along with Naomi on her journey!

Who do you have in your life that is part of your race? Don’t take another step without inviting someone to join you!

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12