I used to run in the mornings.
When I was (significantly) younger, I would wake up early and sleepily tie on my sneakers, pop a cassette tape into my Walkman (yup – just dated myself), put my headphones on (no earbuds, mind you, just a couple of generously-sized speakers that nearly covered my entire ear), and wander out onto the pavement.
My first steps were always labored and awkward (not to mention painfully slow). Often though, as my body warmed to the idea of motion, I would find my stride. The rhythmic thud of my feet on the street somehow managed to free up space in my head. Some days, I found myself lost in the music I was listening to. Other times, my thoughts were so loud that the music served only as a soundtrack for the stories and scenarios streaming through my mind.
But there were moments during these early morning jogs where neither the music nor the head games could compete with the drama emerging from the east. On these days, as the sun gathered its energy and bled its light into the fading darkness, I was nearly overcome by the power of the new day. Light and warmth intensified everything within eyeshot, exposing the world to me and me to it. On these days, when my run was over, I felt… different. As if I hadn’t just been on a run, but on a journey. That somehow, in 30 minutes’ time, I had started and completed something; that mysteriously, things had changed.
One thing I never experienced, however, was the sense that I was in any way/shape/form a Champion. I was just a jogger. A novice. A casual athlete. I wasn’t running to win any races or trying to keep pace with anyone else. I ran because I had a desire to move.
At a meeting I attended last week, this word Champion came up.
Not the winner/victor/title-holder kind of Champion, but the supporter/guardian/defender/advocate kind.
The kind of Champion who campaigns tirelessly for her cause.
The kind of Champion who will fight for what is right and necessary and true.
The kind of Champion who stands up for those who just can’t find their balance (or have been knocked out so many times that they just can’t lift themselves up off of the mat – again).
Not the noun-kind-of-Champion, who wears a medal or frames a certificate to hang on the wall, but the verb-kind-of-Champion. The doing/speaking/acting/stepping-out-of-comfort-zones-for-something-bigger-than-myself-ing kind. One who bravely acts on an innate desire to move.
The Psalmist noticed this need to move in the daily recurrence of the sunrise, comparing the sun to “a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” Psalm 19:5
Having a very well-defined ‘course’ to run, the sun rises every morning and sets every night, only to rise up and do the same again tomorrow. And the day after that. And again, the day after that. Without the faithful, daily emergence of light and heat from the sky, all of creation would be out of whack. Out of sync. Unable to function predictably.
Without this Champion of the sky, darkness would prevail on the earth.
But a quick look around me confirms that, while physical darkness comes and goes with the day, other forms of darkness have fallen around us which aren’t so eager to be ushered out by the sun.
Emotional darkness. Depression. Lost hope.
Relational darkness. Betrayal. Discord.
Spiritual darkness. Confusion. Mixed messages.
I know you see it. I know you feel it all around you, every time you leave the house or pick up the phone or turn on the tv.
Champions are needed in this world that’s out of whack, to bring it back into sync with the Creator. Verb-kinds-of-Champions, whose goal isn’t victory but action. Whose course is met with patience and persistence and joy.
Whose first steps may be labored and awkward and slow, but whose faithful attempts at finding their stride produce rhythms of freedom and healing and possibility for those who haven’t seen the sun in a very, very, very long time.
Friend, move to a window and look up.
The One Who made the sun and set its course in the sky is the same One Who created you! You may not have noticed this before, but you have been given your own course to run. You are the possessor of energy and light, and there are people all around you whose lives are crying out for a Champion!
Not a competitive, gotta-come-out-on-top Champion, but one who is compassionate, looking-out-for-the-lost-and-the-lonely-and-the-least. Not sprinting to the finish, leaving the ‘competition’ in the dust, but faithfully and steadily following the course of a God-crafted life in a God-hungry world.
We need Champions!
Double-knot those sneakers, my brave friend. I’ll see you on the street.