Thursday, July 20, 2017

My Rear Guard

by Danetta Kellar

the Lord will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard. Isaiah 52:12b, NASB 

I was determined to run the race. 

It was the third annual trail run, and I had run it the previous two years. This time I had just returned to running after recovering from a broken foot, and now my hip was injured to boot. I was in the poorest condition ever for the intense three-mile run up a mountain at an elevation of nearly 2000 feet above sea level. 

This race was important to me. It symbolized a mountain in my personal life that I had to prove to myself I could climb, no matter my limitations.
There are some hard things in life that we would be justified, even applauded, to abandon. They cause us pain and strain and stretch us thin and transparent, allowing others to see the ugly inside. We’d be better off if we just quit and walked away. That’s what others say, anyhow.

There is indeed a time to walk away. But there is also a time to stay. A time to hold on against the howling wind, leaning into the strain, hanging on with all we have and crying out to God for help to endure. 

There are races in life only we can run and finish lines we must cross ourselves.

For me, physically running is a spiritual, emotional, and mental exercise. I usually fix my mind on a specific Scripture passage or a pre-planned prayer focus as I raced. This time, however, I had waited and waited for the Lord to show me this race’s focus, but nothing came. Heaven seemed silent. 

That morning as I approached the starting line, I had simply prayed, Lord, I am listening. Speak to me today as I run. 
Within the first five minutes, runners found their pace and mine was at the very back. I ran through the pain and willed my legs to move. My spirit was strong and my determination was even stronger. This would be hard, but it would be a glorious three miles of solitude with God, here at the back, as I listened. 

That was the moment I heard the voice.

“Hang in there. I’m not going to leave you.”

Startled, I looked behind me. Running a few paces back was a man carrying a walkie talkie in his hand. 

Disarmed, I replied, “Oh, no. I’ll be fine. You don’t have to stay with me.” 

In my head, what I really said was, What!? I have to talk to a stranger for three miles?? I want to run this alone- no audience to watch me struggle! Please leave me alone.

“Actually, I do have to stay with you. I’m not leaving. I will be here if you need me and I will make sure you get across the finish line,” he replied.

He was the darn sweep runner, the medic assigned to bring up the rear, the one the race coordinator informed about the injured runner who was determined to finish the race. Me.

Above the tinkling stream beside the path, I heard another voice. 

This is my race lesson for you today. I am your rear guard, and I will never leave you.

The voice of God has a way of silencing all the other voices in our souls. 

For example, the stubborn voice in me that wants to do everything in my own strength. Or the prideful voice in me that doesn’t want others to see me struggle or come in last. Or, worst of all, the voice of despair that tells me that I am not going to make it.

I am your rear guard, and I will never leave you. I will be here to help you and make sure you get across the finish line.

For three point one miles, I had a physical reminder that God was behind me, bringing me in. He is not only the One who goes before us. He comes behind us, making sure we make it. 

There were a few moments I thought my heart might burst as I tried to push myself beyond my limits. I had to slow down, even stop. My rear guard never condemned me, though my own mind was raging with disappointment. He stopped with me and encouraged me, and when I was ready, we ran on. Toward the finish.

Before the finish line came into sight, I could hear the cheering. I wanted to turn around and run the other way. I didn’t want to be cheered on out of pity, as the last runner who made it in. Then my little girl emerged around the curve and took my hand. Her name means grace. 

Grace led me across the finish, as Mercy and Faithfulness brought me in from behind.

I was listening, and I heard you, Father. I love you, too.

Lord, thank you that no matter what I face, your grace goes before me, and your mercy and faithfulness are my rear guard. You will help me finish what You have begun in my life, for I can’t do it alone. Amen.

In what ways have you experienced God as your rear guard?


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