Words by Al Blanton | Image by Ryan McGill
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34
Several months ago, I registered for the St. Jude Marathon, held on December 2 in Memphis, Tennessee. Still 26.2 miles but billed by several of my running friends as a “fun” course (fun meaning relatively flat), the race was as conquerable as any—at least in my mind—if I was going to post the first full marathon of my career. In short, it was an event I looked forward to and had circled on my calendar.
My running journey began last summer when a friend suggested I slow my pace and try to increase my distance. When I implemented that scheme, I quickly went from 2.5 miles per run to 5, to 6, to 7, to 8. I got up to 10 miles before participating in my first half marathon in December of last year. And let me tell you: it was brutal. Several times on the run, I thought I might perish. At one point, I think I began hallucinating and saw Elvis walking with that creepy bear on The Shining. Yet, I somehow powered through and got my first medal. It was a great feeling.
I continued hitting the pavement throughout the spring and worked my way up to 15 miles. At this point, I didn’t think it was too far-fetched to consider St. Jude. After all, I had several months to find 11 more miles in my tank. So, I registered.
I continued to train throughout the summer and early fall and participated in another half marathon in early October. And although the second event nearly killed my spirit for running altogether, I circled the wagons and set my eyes on St. Jude.
This often came up as a topic of conversation as I circulated town. “I’m training for a full marathon,” I would boast publicly. “I’m running St. Jude in early December. Yep. Full marathon. Yep. Full.”
Whoa! was the typical response. Maybe it was my height (6-foot-5), my age (45), my gray hair (increasing), or the fact that I’d gotten a little on the tubby side (255 lbs.) that elicited such astonishment. Nevertheless, I was proud to say I was doing something so remarkable.
Full. Marathon. Boom.
Anyway, I planned to ramp up to 20-21 miles by early November so that I could hit the 26.2 mark by December 2. This is how crazy it got: I even thought about running to Cordova and back or running down Highway 78 from Jasper to Dora/Sumiton (will I get hit by a car? Can I negotiate the Warrior River Bridge? Should I wear a chain mail suit for protection?).
But then, Friday the 13th happened.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I tore my Achilles playing pickup basketball at a local church on October 13. I had surgery the following Monday, and ever since, I have been hopping around on one foot and putt-putting around town on a knee scooter (if you see me, make sure to honk the horn or wave).
And the St. Jude Marathon? Kaput. Done.
By December 2, I won’t even be out of a boot, and I hope to be walking unassisted by the New Year.
What am I getting at?
The Bible talks about making plans and how that can often reek of pridefulness. In our interpersonal conversations, we say we are going to do this and that, but in reality, we have no idea what tomorrow may bring.
Listen to what the Bible says about the future:
“Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” – James 4:13-16
Some people spend their lives trying to control and manipulate others and control the future. And no wonder. We’ve been fed a steady diet of messages like “You are the captain of your fate!” and “Take hold of your destiny!” Self has been elevated to elite status; society has placed it on the Everest of significance while the lives of others remain far back at the base camp. We seek out fortune tellers, sages, horoscopes, and palm readers instead of embracing the concept of Deo volente—what God wills.
Benjamin Franklin opined that the only certainties in life are death and taxes, but please allow me to add one more to that list: unpredictability. For just as soon as we go boasting about how we are going to do this and that, we find that our plans go awry, we change our mind, or something intervenes that alters the course of our lives. And just because we’ve marked an event on our calendar doesn’t mean it is going to happen.
Conversely, by saying, “If the Lord wills,” we cede our fate and our plans to the hands of the Almighty. In doing so, we acknowledge that even the hairs on our heads are numbered, and He knows the precise number of our days here on earth. In doing so, we surrender to Him the entirety of our lives and concede that no sparrow falls to the ground without Him knowing about it. And, quite extraordinarily, He alone is the captain of our fate—sovereign, omnipotent, omnipresent.
Because whether something happens or doesn’t happen is really up to Him.
Lastly, adopting an “if the Lord wills” mindset helps us focus on today. What if you got up every morning and, instead of diving headlong into whatever you wanted to do without checking up, you prayed, Lord, help me to live for you and not myself. Send me where you want to send me. Place whoever you want in front of me. Make happen what you want to happen today. Help me live this day to the fullest. And may it all be for your glory…
The real question is, “Are you willing to turn over your life, plans, and future to the King of Kings? Are you willing to get on God’s calendar?”
For while our plans are always tentative, God never misses an appointment. WL