#WCW – This Side of Heaven

#WCW – This Side of Heaven

For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills – Psalm 50:10

Eight years ago I ran my first half marathon. Besides transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle, this experience transformed my thinking on health and wellness. I’d gotten off work one evening and received a phone call from a family member that a high school friend of mine had just passed. It was so shocking I had to pull over into the parking lot of a nearby apartment complex to process the information. A day or two later, I got up enough courage to drive over to my friends’ parents house to pay my respects. I had butterflies the whole way over. Dealing with death has never been my cup of tea. And somehow, saying I’m sorry to someone who has just lost a huge part of their world just doesn’t resonate I care enough for me. Who came up with those words anyway?

The visit ended up being more comfortable than I’d imagined. The family was holding up pretty well and there was so much peace in their home that evening, I totally forgot about my plan to bawl the words I’m sorry at the door and then bolt like my hair was on fire. Thank God! I stayed for a few hours and headed on home.

Fred Hammond’s “You Are My LIfe” strummed my disbelief all the way home. My thoughts were wrapped around the fact that she could have been me. Just one month shy of my twenty-sixth birthday and that could have been me. Of course, there was an entire laundry list of jargon ransacking my mind as well. But nothing outweighed the gratitude I had towards God that evening for being alive.

I pulled into my space at my complex and was planning on walking on upstairs, taking a shower and crashing. But, I felt the urge to check the mail. Blam! There it was, an invitation to join Team in Training to race and raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My friend had just died from a form of lymphoma. Yep, I said the same thing too. Wow! I held on to that postcard like it was the last five dollars I had to my name. I struggled for days whether or not to accept the invite and go to a meeting to hear more about the opportunity. The closest I’d ever come to long distance running was the 440 warm up in high school track practice. 13.2 miles of nonstop running seemed like suicide to me. But I did it. I made the call, went to the meeting and accepted the offer. Then I went and ate an entire pint of ice cream because I was so freaked out about deciding to run a half marathon. I remember nervously laughing through each spoon full.

A month later I started training and totally shocked myself by running five nonstop miles at a 9-minute mile pace. Each week I ran longer and steady. My coach nicknamed me the cab because I didn’t look like I was running fast enough but always managed to finish in marathon pace, and ahead of most of all the hares on the team as well. The tortoise didn’t have nothing on me. Training lasted for about six months. We ran trails and paths all over the city and the bay area. The time came. We boarded a plane and headed out to San Francisco for the first annual Nike Women’s Half Marathon. I was fit as a fiddle and built like a brick house. Okay, I’m exaggerating a little. I’ve never been a brick house. But I did look good.

We landed in Cali and headed off to the hotel to get our room assignments. We ended up staying at the Westin right in the middle of Union Square. The view was amazing, the sheets and pillows were goose down and the bathroom was like a pool house all to itself. I was in heaven. Or at least I thought I was until I was met with sixty inches and about 102 Romanian pounds of HELLO! Gabriella was her name. She’d left her family behind and come to America just a few years prior to the half. She arrived with a few dollars and a few words. In a short amount of time, she taught herself English, Spanish, graduated junior college with honors and managed to land a spot at Harvard University. The girl was bad.  We gelled immediately. I was high off life and she was high off of accomplishment. We began hanging like two girlfriends fresh off the finish of a high school reunion. Union Square took a beating.

Well, me being the go-getter I am concerning my faith, I waited until a good interruption in our hang time to ask her about her faith. She took me to school. For about an hour she talked about what religion meant in her country. Basically there wasn’t one. The closest they were allowed to come to God was a picture of their president on the wall. They weren’t allowed to pray openly and there was no hankering for Sunday morning because church was non-existent. However, she knew of God and believed in His existence. And by the way she described Him to me, probably better than I did. That messed up my ministry plan. Somehow we wound up on the topic of having it all; God, money, houses, family, health and any nice thing one could think up. Me and what I now refer to as my false humility, described all to her as being totally in love with God. That’s all I needed and if everyone else in the world had Him, He’d be all they needed as well. She looked at me and asked me two questions that blew my religion apart. “Doesn’t God own everything? And if He owns everything and wants you to be happy, why are you waiting to get to heaven to have it all? You can have it all right now.” You would have thought somebody glued my mouth shut I was so quiet. And I’m the one who’s read the bible.

I got back to the hotel that evening and for the first time in my life was totally lost on how to pray. I’d learned everyone else’s way to pray from church and now that my tunnel vision of God had just been given a colossal windshield view, I didn’t even know how to start a prayer. Fifteen years of salvation and I was stumped. So, I layed back and let my heart speak. And He spoke back. ‘”For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” In the context of this passage God is pretty much putting Israel in check. He’s putting His chest out and boasting a little about who He is and reminding them that they should worship Him as such. He even goes on to say, “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. In this boasting, I received the greatest personal revelation of God. I don’t have to wait til I get to heaven to enjoy everything that God has for me right here on His earth. I don’t have to have faith and live like a pauper. I’m not talking solely about material things. I’m talking about complete wholeness. I can be in good health and live in a great home as well. I can be mentally and financially stable. My faith alone won’t feed a hungry person. But if I’m blessed in abundance, I can feed and clothe a village. I’m a King’s kid. I can live just like I praise, GOOD! Thanks Gabbi! 

naomickellogg@gmail.com

I'm a writer, wife , and mom.

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