It’s Friday night, 10 PM and normally at this time each week I’m stretching a bit and then settling-in for night-night, as the Saturday morning alarm sounds at 4:15.  My Saturday mornings are a routine of comfortable sameness, with a quick shower, a banana and massive cup of coffee, followed by Bible study and then some serious pre-training stretches.  Saturday mornings are the culmination of the week for marathon training, and as the Road Runner team is now piling-on the miles – 12 last week and 15 the week prior – we are getting serious about this marathon thing.

So why am I typing instead of stretching or sleeping?  Why is it that my alarm clock is not set for the 4:15 wake up buzz?  Well, it likely has something to do with the fact that I won’t be joining the Road Runners in the morning for another 15-miler.

And that my friends has me singing the blues tonight.

I love me some Christmas, in fact, I was clamoring for Christmas music in early November while the rest of you were complaining about the season coming too early.  I love celebrating the birth of Jesus and everything that comes with it, and I am a professing Christian who has no issue whatsoever with Santa Claus.  We celebrate the birth seriously in our home while having a little fun with the secular aspect of the holiday, taking time to make certain that the kids know the real reason for the season.  All this to say again that I love the season fiercely, but I have to tell you that when it’s over it’s really over for me, and that’s why I spent a good portion of the 26th taking Christmas down.

Down came the decorations, down went the snowman and down went the miniature Christmas trees on the porch.

The problem is that once they came down they all had to go up.

Up, as in up in the rafters of the garage and therein comes the source of why I’m sitting it out tomorrow.  Yes, I completely overdid things yesterday in my zeal for deconstructing Christmas.  As things came down and had to go up I managed to re-aggravate my balky lower back once again.  But it didn’t happen immediately, in fact up until about Noon today I was going about things quite merrily as I had lunch with my friend Martin, where we spoke in length about my marathon training and his recent reentry into the runners’ world, and I was very much looking forward to Saturday’s long run.  That all changed when I returned home, walked into my bedroom and reached for a book on the nightstand.

ZAP! Went my lower back, and before you could say, Hey Don, you really overdid it yesterday, I was on the floor in immense pain.

For those of you who have never had a back problem just imagine if someone snuck up on you from behind and completely startled you – with a red-hot poker in your lower back.

That’s what it feels like.

So back to the chiropractor I went, where I got an adjustment followed by some electronic muscle stimulation and then straight home for ice packs and a back brace.

Twenty four hours ago I was thrilled at the prospect of running 15 miles on Saturday and now I am scared that I’m not going to be able to do the marathon.  I feel like I need to give back all of the generous donations to World Vision given as a sponsorship for my marathon efforts, and worst of all I just feel like a complete loser.

It’s strange what pain can do to you.  For the better part of the afternoon and evening I’ve been lamenting the things I do not have, mourning the friendships that I have lost and completely doubting my ability to do anything worthwhile with my life.  My wife Samantha offered to pray for me and I actually turned her down, admitting that just before I walked into the chiropractor’s office I had said a prayer and immediately upon finishing the prayer I had another back spasm.  I told her if that was the response to my prayer I wasn’t certain that I wanted to pray again.

Yes, I have the blues.

I went on and on about the back brace, my inadequacies as a husband, father and friend.  I raged about the money that we have raised for World Vision and how I needed to figure out how to give it all back.  I was treading water here and I was about to drown.  Sam didn’t know what to say, so she said nothing.  The kids kept their distance, and I limped around the house like a poor, pathetic wretch.  There would be no running tomorrow and thus I was worthless.  Or so it seemed.

I was listening to and believing the lies.

A spiritual attack is subtle to the one being attacked yet quite obvious to observers.  I have been called upon to disciple a young believer next week and I am both thrilled and frightened by the opportunity, but one thing that steadies my nerves is the realization that the Holy Spirit will be doing all the heavy lifting.  All I need to do is pray and prepare and simply be willing to let the Spirit guide me, and just as long as I don’t do anything that would let me get in the way of being a vessel for the Lord then everything is going to be great.  It wasn’t long after that realization of the truth that my back went out.  Now sure, I overdid things yesterday and physically I am pretty beat up, but beyond the physical pain and suffering came the attacks in the form of sadness and regret.

I wrote before about stretching, which is one of the absolute necessities for successful and injury-free running, but there is also something that I absolutely need when running the race of life each day if I am to emerge unscathed or at the very least be able to fight effectively.

It is the full armor of God.

Armor

Our fight here is not with man but with Satan, and since the warfare is spiritual we cannot arm ourselves with conventional weaponry, so the full armor of God is an absolute necessity each and every day for believers.

We need the belt of truth so that we can defeat the lies of the enemy, the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness to guard our hearts from the accuser’s charges, our feet made swift by the gospel of peace to deliver the good news even in the midst of attack, while the shield of faith and helmet of salvation ward-off doubt and protect our minds from false doctrine, and sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God is our lone weapon of attack rather than defense because it is holy and powerful and will defeat all comers (see Ephesians 6:13-17).

I’ve been leaving the house without this armor for a while, taking it for granted that all was well and all was right.  I got cocky and I took it all for granted that I could switch on my spiritual auto pilot and things would be just fine.  But when you head out into a dark world without the armor you are asking for problems, especially when Satan observes that the Holy Spirit is moving in a mighty way.  Such is the case with God using a guy like me to disciple a young believer.  I’m frightened and uncertain but I also know that God wants me to do it and I want to be obedient, so I said yes to the opportunity and Satan doesn’t like it.  Not one bit.

So here come the attacks…

The attack is NOT my backing going-out on me.  No, I’m a firm believer that all things have a purpose so I am choosing to believe that I am not supposed to run tomorrow, but that’s me talking at 10:45 PM, a good five hours after relenting and praying with my beautiful wife.

Over my sobs of physical and spiritual pain Samantha prayed for healing and rebuked Satan for the attacks of self-doubt, hopelessness and giving-up that are so not me (anymore).  Sam simply wouldn’t stand for it and her voice was loud and clear during our time of prayer.  It was purifying in a way that could only be understood by a believer who knows the truth but refuses to believe it for a brief time because of circumstances and finally awakes to the reality that Jesus loves us, has a plan for us and if we are faithful and obedient we get the privilege of knowing Him and walking-out the plan He has set forth for our lives.

I lost that focus briefly during my pity party because I had failed to follow the important instructions of Ephesians 6:10-12:  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I can lace up my running shoes and head out the door for a training run and come home unscathed many times over, but if I fail to stretch before and after training I am making myself susceptible to injuries that at some point will catch up to me and take me down – like when I took down Christmas (or Christmas took me down).

The same is true with my life.  I can slurp a big cup of coffee and head out the door to work, but if I fail to put on the full armor of God every single day before putting the key in the ignition ultimately Satan will take me down.

He did it today because I failed a test of obedience.  Thankfully I am blessed enough to have a woman after God’s heart that I call my wife who recognized the signs and because she was fully equipped by the armor of God she fought the fight for me.

And guess what?  God always wins.

Thank you Samantha and thank You Lord for this amazing reminder.

As I pray for healing I also ask for wisdom and discernment to recognize my deficiencies and to see the attacks coming before I am overwhelmed again.  I pray a special blessing on my wife and family who have endured a difficult day that has left us all a bit weary and beat-up.

I’m tremendously thankful for supportive friends and family who love and care for me in spite of my difficult nature.

No, I’m not running tomorrow, but that’s okay.  There was a bigger and more important endurance test today that will continue on for the balance of all my days on earth.

My back will heal and I will be running again soon.  Now all I need is that big cup of coffee and the full armor of God so that I can face another day of it.

Pray for me…

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