A few weeks ago, as much as I hate running, I decided to push myself to go for a quick run at a nearby park. Dusk was approaching and I forgot my headphones. It certainly felt eerie hearing only leaves rustling in the heat of July.
Let me be clear--I am not much of a runner. But lately, I have been trying to discipline myself and exercise--plus I have been striving to do so in many areas of my life.
And this striving brings worry. What if I'm not good enough to run well to the end? What if people running by think I am weak for only running in short bursts?
And this was not the best day to run. The heat of the scorching day lagged steamy between the tree leaves. Each and every air molecule seemed to be bursting with humidity, like a thick mist suspended and still, only cut by the warm skin of those daring enough to journey through it.
I was really trying to run well, but I felt held back. Hot air sticking in my burning lungs, leg muscles aching, I stopped. I looked up and around me. I was alone on this difficult path.
A gentle voice welled up inside of me: "Be free."
How? I thought. I am not a runner. I am chained down by imperfection and not-enough-ness and...there it was again. That voice:
"Be free, like the trees who let their leaves dance in the breeze, singing their rustling song to Me. Be free, child. Breathe with intention instead of fear."
I closed my eyes and listened to the trees around me, leaves rustling without a care. My lungs burned but I let go of a sliver of fear each time I breathed out. And I desperately sucked in God's strength in its place.
The journey of seeking God is not easy. Sometimes we run freely, other times we have to slow our pace to a walk. And sometimes we face-plant. But the command of the LORD is still the same: "Do not fear; I am with you." (Isaiah 41:10, paraphrased).
"Live with intention and freedom in ME instead of fear" was the message from the Holy Spirit that day.
Suddenly I felt convicted, not about my running, but about my whole life. All this striving I was doing was taking my mind away from trusting in God. It was directing my thoughts toward fear.
My heart can get so clenched up in anxiety that I don't even notice until I'm practically falling over on a running trail! The muscles of faith in my spirit were just as tired as my lungs. I was only working up worry in all of my effort.
I stood still, breathing in and out, remembering this verse:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. (2 Corinthians 3:17, ESV)FREEDOM. Not panic. Not perfectionism. Not chains of worry. Not slavery to fear. But freedom in Christ.
And maybe, just maybe, as we let go of our fear and lean in to the strength of Christ, we can start to lean in to the flow of the story He is writing for us. Maybe, as He orchestrates the symphony of our lives, we can loosen up a little and be free like the dancing leaves of the trees.
Whether life brings a strong wind or a gentle breeze, maybe our lives could be released from our tight, fearful grip and lifted up in a song of praise to God. Every trip, every stumble, every victory...maybe it's all a song to Him. Maybe it's all about putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, in obedience.
Maybe being brave is all about shaking off the chains of fear and walking freely in trust.
Jordan Fortenboher is a writer, worship leader, and wife. She lives in the Cincinnati area where she blogs about faith and bravery. You can read more on her blog, http://jordanforty.me, and connect with her on twitter (@jordanforty) or her facebook page.