“So are we taking the ditch?” Mr. Fantastic asked me as we zipped up sweatshirts and headed out for a run.
“I don’t know. I kind of thought we’d drive to the jogging trail,” was my first reply.
But then I said, “Sure, why not. If we die in a freakish flash flood, the kids can read my blog to know how much I loved them.”
I was kidding- kind of. The ditch isn’t likely to kill us, but the last few weeks have wrung me out, making me desperate for new life in dark places of my heart.
For thirteen years, whenever we come for a visit, we have headed for the trail near my in-laws’ house. We take the steep concrete wall of the city’s creek bed, and then jog to the trail.
It’s not something I would ever do unless goaded on by my husband.
There we were, precariously shimmying down to the bottom of the ditch, like Spider-Man rides down the side of skyscraper. I wondered if I looked as old and ridiculous as I felt, sliding along like that.
But once I started running, the only feeling that remained was my great need for God.
I talk best to God with my headphones in, as the rhythm of my feet on the pavement beat out the message of my heart.
Today I heard my feet pounding this into the concrete, “I want what I want and I can’t let go.”
In my deepest thoughts the ugliest parts of me blossom and grow if I let them hide away. I thrust them into God’s hands and hope for deliverance.
Once we got to the trail, the sight of dead leaves underfoot struck me as so…personal.
I feel like one of these leaves: dried up and crumpled on the ground, about to be stepped on and broken by the rough world.
My feet beat out a new message to God as they crunch over the gravel. I cry out to Him, “Is this really life? Ditches and dead leaves?”
“No,” God told me. “In Me, the ditches and dead leaves become living water and seeds of life.”
I already know this. But it grinds against the ragged edges of my heart like a brutally new truth.
I see Mr. Fantastic up ahead, steadily running at a pace I can never quite keep. I would follow him anywhere, which is good. That seems to be how this marriage of ours plays out most of the time. He runs and I strain to keep up.
But today, I am a little raw and weary of this trail we are on.
I must learn again that I am not a leaf. I am a seed, falling into the ground. I am only dead until I am planted in Christ once again.
I am not in a ditch, I am beside a spring. I wait for the water to flow clear and true.
To the world around me, I can only offer the part of me that has died and been transformed. Kind words, selfless service, gracious prayers flow from the living water of Christ, the fount of every blessing in my soul.
To God I can only really offer the part of me that has yet to die. He delights to receive my broken, needy heart. Weariness that weighs me down, sin that entangles my feet, and selfish desires are among his greatest treasures.
God has a thing for fixing us up and making us new. It’s His favorite thing to do.
Sometimes I get this backwards, and I offer the world my brokenness and God my shiny Sunday best. Those are the times that life gets messy.
But I still want what I want and I can’t let go. Even though I resent the gospel’s gracious offer of death, I know no other salve more effective for the pain of life.
Die so you can live. It sounds simple in theory. It is painful to adopt as a general lifestyle.
But it works.
I accept truth and relinquish my stubborn pride. My feet beat out their answer to God as we head back, “I am Yours. I belong to You. I will walk the path You place before me.”
Mr. Fantastic and I take a running start to climb the concrete embankment. He goes first. I follow.
I nearly slip back down at the top. He grabs my hand and pulls me to safety.
“Well, we made it,” he says.
This is all I know, in the deep places: this man and I are called to take ditches and live the gospel together; and God is always with us, a deep fountain of living water.
I dive down again…