"You don't need to be able to run a physical marathon. If you can run spiritual marathons, you are in good shape."
Those words rang out from Heaven as clearly as church bells on a Sunday morning. It was in a moment of need that God spoke into me confirmation of satisfaction. I didn't understand the need as I was expressing it but God knew the void I desperately needed filled and He came to my listening ear to provide the tender mercies my heart was aching to hear.
This need started years ago, back when I started running. I used to look at marathoners and envy their muscular legs, strong lungs and fierce bodies. In my healthier moments I fantasized about joining them in their quest for the finish line. Someday, I thought, I'll be running those twenty-six miles, too.
As the years passed and my weight dropped so did my running and with it my marathon dreams. Even if I had wanted to train and prepare for such a feat I wouldn't be able to force my body to cooperate. My weight and flaring muscles put an end to any ideas of training for a long distance run. To even an attempt a marathon at my weight would be foolish and downright dangerous. So I reluctantly let that dream go and re-shape my criteria for fitness. In order to cease judging my body by how many miles I could run and at what speed I had to stop envying the stride of marathoners. I had to change my definition of "in shape" and embrace the exercise of a brisk walk.
My vision of running a marathon has long been laid to rest and, until this morning, I hadn't thought on it for even a moment. No wonder I was surprised when God directly spoke to a deeply hidden longing that I believed was dead and buried.
As I sat on my bed with my Bible open to the book of Luke, God used the words in red, the words of Jesus, to remind me that the Holy Spirit was there with me, in the room. A sigh of relief filled up my lungs and brought an audible prayer to my lips. That's when I started talking to God, out loud. I normally - read never - pray out loud. I am more of a silent communicator. I pray to myself but I rarely speak to the air. As I meditated on Luke 17 I realized that talking out loud wasn't silly or a practice in futility. God was in the room. The Holy Spirit was as real as the bed I was sitting on.
So I started talking and what came forth was the need God had been waiting for me to acknowledge. Without an agenda, a dialogue or a plan I started speaking about my insufficiencies and insecurities. I spoke for what couldn't have been more than a minute or two but when I was done my heart felt lighter. Without yelling, screaming or crying I had vented the deepest parts of my soul and ended it with a smile and a new found peace.
That's when the voice came. That's when God responded. He reached into the shadows of my soul and revealed my hidden desire to run a marathon. Then He lifted my burden on of regret and loss. In return He gave me permission to accept my life and my body apart from my physical capabilities. In one sentence He redefined my understanding of fitness and strength and gave new meaning to "in shape."
The world's measurements for physical success don't define who I am. I am not evaluated by distance run or the pace of my fastest mile. God doesn't judge what the world can see and calculate. He doesn't use physical accomplishments to evaluate man.
God measures fitness against the perfect ruler of His Son. Jesus is my yard stick. The "it is finished" of Christ is my finish line. I'm running in a spiritual race that doesn't come with a stop watch or a checkered flag. It comes with trials, struggles, hidden blessings of the heart and eternal bliss in Heaven.
Until this morning I truly believed I was done judging myself by the world's physical standards but God shined a light into my heart and showed me otherwise. God uncovered a guilt burden I was hiding. I was still wishing and hoping for a body that could run a marathon. But that hope is no longer hidden and it is no longer doing internal damage to my inner peace. God threw off the covering and threw out the desire. He looked at my heart, heard my prayer and met my need for acceptance with His voice.
Now I know the truth of who I am in Christ and my spiritual fitness. I am in shape as long as I am running my race to the glory of god. As long as I am matching my steps to Christ's and keeping pace with His speed then I can be sure I am performing at a level worthy of the ultimate gold - the golden streets of Heaven perfectly paved for running the spirit's marathon to the glory and honor of the King of Kings.