Between recovering from the Spartan Race and the return of my husband last month, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to run or write lately. Thankfully, I was able to do both during our recent vacation in Illinois to visit family. We drove somewhere around 2,500 miles and visited St. Joseph, Peoria, Chicago and Strasburg. The time spent with family was, as always, crazy and wonderful. And with all the extra hands around to entertain our children, I was able to slip out for a couple of runs. So, here is the first of two blogs I wrote while away.
As I set out to run from my sister-in-law’s house the other day, I was hopeful that the flat mid-west farm land and being 5,000 ft closer to sea level would somehow make me faster. When it didn’t pan out like I hoped, I began berating myself… “Why can’t I be as fit as *Susie*?” “I bet *Angela* is walking faster than I’m running!” “What would it take to be as fast as *Julie*?” Of course, I wasn’t taking into consideration the mid-morning record-high heat and humidity or the severely high pollen count in the area.
After a mile or so, I realized I wasn’t listening for God, so I stopped the incessant chatter in my head about my shortcomings and began to simply look around. As I took in Saint Joseph’s farm land, I thought about how I have always admired the ordered beauty of row after straight row of green crops flourishing in fertile soil. It isn’t the rugged red rocks or purple mountains majesty of Colorado, but there is beauty in those fields and utility in the stalks and sprouts that feed and fuel our Nation. We rely on them just as we need the fish from the lakes and oceans, the oil from Alaska and the gulf.
As I pondered the many resources of the regions our Nation is rich in, I noticed a dragon-fly flitting just above the blooming wild flowers and a bird in the distance soaring high above on the strong wind currents. I realized that God made all things unique. We don’t expect farmland to produce fish. We don’t expect a dragon-fly to soar gracefully among the clouds or for birds to have the gloriously iridescent wings of the insect. Yet how often do we humans judge each other and ourselves based on some arbitrary set of standards without regard for what God has blessed us individually with. As it says in Romans 12:4-8,
“For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching, he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”
We are all different and all have different gifts and Paul begs the Romans to bring glory to God by employing those gifts. Are you using your God-given gifts? Do you know what they are?
Galatians 6:4-5 tells us, “Each one should test their own actions. Then, they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load.” Now, I don’t mean to get into a lengthy discussion on the merits or pitfalls of pride here, because much is written about the dangers of haughtiness in the bible. I believe that if you rightfully give glory to God who has gifted you with every skill or talent you possess, that is not the pride we are so often warned against. For me, the key to this verse is “without comparing themselves to someone else.” So, we praise God for all we are able to do and let go of envy, competition and judgement for what others do that we cannot.
There is a need for each of our specific talents. Imagine if we could all run marathons or sub-4 minute miles. Worse yet, what if we all aspired to be neurosurgeons, or everyone trained to be Army Generals, or each person set their sights on the Presidency? Our society simply would not function with such a singularity of purpose among its people. We need people who teach, who deliver mail and packages, build and repair cars, make toys, harvest and grow crops, raise animals… The list goes on and on. I often tell my boys that God created every thing, which has led to some interesting questions lately. “Did God build our house?” “Did He make this hair dryer?” “Did God give us this TV?” Each time, my answer is the same, “God made the people who invented or created all these things and He gave them the special skills and abilities to create and build them.”
“Each of you should use whatever gifts you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms… do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ…”
1 Peter 4:10-11
The “Green Haze” I found myself running in last week was not just from a high pollen count in the fields of Illinois. It was the green haze of envy. Wishing I could run farther or faster, like others I know. How often do we find ourselves wishing we had a nicer house, like our neighbor, a bigger car, a classier wardrobe, fancier jewelry. Perhaps we covet another’s success, talents or skills or career path.
As I let go of competition, I made room in my heart and mind to recognize the true reason God is calling me to run. Not for speed or distance, but for a time to truly hear His message for me and the clarity to share it. Is there a green haze keeping you from noticing what God is calling you to do?
What would it be like to live in a community governed by 1 Peter 4:10-11? One where all citizens let go of competition and judgement, and instead embrace their own God-given gifts and talents using them to serve their neighbor, relying on the power of God to strengthen them as they go about their daily business. All the while, acknowledging Him as the source of their abilities and inspiration and praising Him for their very life and salvation? I would prefer to spend time living like that than in the envious green haze I find myself in too often.
** Names have been changed to protect the objects of my envy.