April 22 is officially Earth Day/Arbor Day. It also happens to be “Trails Day” in my small town. So, what a perfect excuse to get outside and enjoy a long hike, one of my favorite things. I got up, prepared what I felt I needed for an hour or two, laced up my joggers, and headed out.

I expected there would be a few more walking with me today since it was a special event. At the trailhead, a couple of tents were set up, one for a local gym and another for a local nursery promoting free trees for Arbor Day. A small red carpet even marked our way to begin!

I started at my usual fairly quick pace. My husband refuses to walk with me because he likes to saunter along and enjoy the view. I also enjoy nature, but I’m okay with it passing by a little more quickly! As I walked along, several companions were in front and behind me. As we set our individual paces, I passed some and then, in turn, was passed by others. As we neared the 1-mile marker, I noticed the company around me started to thin out. It made me think of the verse that says, “You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth?” (Galatians 5:7, NLT.) Some decided at that point not to continue.

As I neared the 1.5-mile marker, I began to hear sounds of cheering. Surely, they had seen my efforts and were cheering me on! As the trail curved, I could see the source of the sound. A Little League baseball game was in full swing, with parents in the stands cheering on their little ones. It may not have been for me, but I was smiling and encouraged as I walked on.

The path for the first couple miles of my hike had been paved and smooth. But at around the 2.5-mile marker, the path suddenly changed. The concrete abruptly ended, and the road continued, but it was now just a dirt trail. I noticed the couple in front of me looking at the new terrain. At that point, they became discouraged and turned back. God spoke so powerfully to me at that moment that I couldn’t stop the tears from spilling from my eyes. How many in my life have I known that started this “race” with me who, when faced with trials or difficulties, had given up and turned around, searching for a smoother path?

I have walked this particular trail in the past, but I am pushing on further than ever before. At about the 4-mile marker, my steps start to slow somewhat. I realize that I am carrying too much. I was getting warm, so I removed the jacket I felt I needed when I started walking. I adjust my pack and continue on.

Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT) states,

“Since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” 

I may have slowed my pace, but I’m determined to continue.

I’m on my own now. I’ve walked further than others were willing to travel. I look around at scenery I’ve never seen before. Because I have decided to push forward, new and amazing things are coming into view. I hear the distinctive sound of a peacock, of all things! A cute little bunny scurries across my path, and a beautiful red cardinal lights on the tree branch next to me. If I had turned around, I would never have experienced God’s amazing creation in all its beauty.

At around the 5-mile marker, I can feel some weariness begin to creep in. My calves begin to ache, and I look forward to completing my journey. But, as I near the 5.5-mile marker, I again hear the distant sounds of cheering! It is the same small baseball park with cheering parents, and I know I am nearing home. My steps once again become a little lighter; I’ve almost made it!

There may not have been throngs of cheering fans greeting me at the end of my 6-mile hike, but I knew I had completed my race and finished my course. I had pushed through the weariness, the pain, and the discouragement when others did not continue with me. I had seen and experienced amazing new things as God ordered my footsteps.

II Timothy 4:7-8 (NIV) puts it this way,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.

Sisters, we are running this race together. Let me encourage you today; YOU CAN MAKE IT! Finish strong!

Author

Shelly Stringfellow is the blessed wife of one husband, Roy, for the past 38 years, proud mother of two exceptional adult children, Candace and Jordan, and Mimi, to the two cutest grandbabies ever, Ellainya and Selah. She loves reading and writing but is not a fan of ‘rithmetic! She attends Lighthouse Church in Princeton, Texas, where her son-in-law and daughter pastor.

4 Comments

  1. Hello! I have enjoyed your writings. Beautiful.

    • Shelly Stringfellow

      Thanks so much Carrie! I just always pray something God speaks to me will somehow resonate with someone else. 🙏🏻