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Running in the Dark



Running in the Dark

Grace Childrey

Have you ever confidently taken a “leap of faith” or stepped out of your comfort zone to find yourself still surrounded by fear?

Two years ago, a friend from Waypoint asked my husband Dylan about filling a spot on their team for the upcoming Blue Ridge Relay, a 204-mile-long relay race through the mountains of North Carolina. Teams of 6-12 runners pass a virtual baton starting Friday morning in Grayson Highlands, Virginia and run all the way through the night to reach the finish line in Asheville, NC the next day.

Dylan eagerly signed up but running multiple times up and down mountains in a 30-hour period was not for me (especially considering the lack of sleep and showers that would be involved). I’ve never been a “runner,” or even an athlete, so I felt much more comfortable being a spectator.

When the race weekend came, I loved watching the team cheer the last runner across the finish line and spending the remainder of the weekend together in Asheville, hearing what God had taught each team member during their race. It was a beautiful picture of the body of Christ, reflecting and worshipping together on Sunday morning.

The next year I decided to face my fears, push myself out of my comfort zone, and join the 2019 Waypoint BRR team! Training was going well until two weeks before the race I fell (while running) and badly injured my ankle. While I still got to join the team at the finish line, I grieved the loss of actually running the race after training so hard. I felt frustrated with God for not seeing my “stepping out in faith” through with the successful end result I wanted.

When discussions about the 2020 BRR team came up, I was hesitant about “stepping out” again. Then the Clendenins shared that they felt led to lead a yearlong mentorship-fellowship group that would culminate with the BRR race. The fellowship group would have a different topic and homework assignments each month, but the overall theme was “Cultivating Your Gift.” I couldn’t deny God was urging me to try again.

The fellowship was able to have two in-person meetings before the shutdown. We met virtually and wondered if the race would be cancelled due to COVID-19. Thankfully it was not, but safety precautions were put in place and we decided to still run the race - praying it would be a bright spot for all of us in the midst of a very hard year.

The week before the race I was so nervous, my mind raced with what-if scenarios. What if our foster son needs us, and we can’t get to him? What if I fall again and can’t run the race and mess up the whole team’s experience? What if I have an asthma attack? What if we all get COVID!?

God met me in my fear, and I felt God’s presence most clearly during the hardest part of the race. A torrential downpour started right before my second leg of the race, a night run. Running along the side of the road in the dark, I couldn’t see further than a few steps in front of me because of the heavy rain. I was having trouble breathing because of all the water in the air. My watch wasn’t working so I also had no idea how far I’d gone or had left to go. Then God brought to mind Psalm 23, especially verse 4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” Even though I literally couldn’t see what was on the path ahead, I felt comforted by God’s presence.

I thought about how that run through the dark rain feels similar to the season of life I’m in with foster parenting, where things often feel very hard, confusing, and the finish line is unclear. God continued to encourage me that, yes, this is hard, and you can’t see fully ahead, but just keep taking the next step even if you can’t see the end. When I began my final leg of the race the next morning, the rain had stopped, and the sun was up. I ran past beautiful mountains, fields, and streams and thought about Psalm 23: 2-3, “He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”

In reflecting on what we learned from the race, it was amazing to hear how many others shared that they also felt like they learned the most from their rainy, night runs - how not being able to see what is ahead allows you to fully trust God for the next step and rely on Him to guide you.

As we continue to navigate life and walk through all the unknowns of the pandemic, I’m encouraged as I remember the race and this quote by Max Lucado, “Don’t give into the despair. Your feelings are not a barometer of the presence of God.” I pray that God allows us to keep following where He calls us to step out of our comfort zones, and that we will know His Presence more through the uncertainties and fears.

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