Last weekend my daughter and I ran a 5k race together, the Hope Run. That annual event is sponsored by a local hospital, and is connected to area elementary school running clubs too, so there’s lots of kid and parent pairs involved. And the race helps support local hospice, all in all it’s a really neat concept.
Running is a hobby of mine – I love it – so when our favorite first grader joined the running club, at her elementary school, in Florida last year I was thrilled. The two of us started jogging together soon after, and, with a few weeks of practice with pops she had gone from running a mile all the way up to a 5k distance – that’s a splash over three miles.
Even cooler to me is this: as an 8-year-old, she’s officially a faster runner at this distance than her 43 year-old dad. Which makes for a proud papa, albeit a humbled one 😊
Now the two of us hadn’t jogged much in Iowa since we arrived here last August. Between spending time to get settled last Fall, and the ridiculously long, and cold winter we former Floridians somehow survived (#ThanksIowa) suffice to say our energies for a while were directed elsewhere.
But when she came home from school six weeks ago, with a certificate for a free entry in this race, a reward earned from running club, I knew it was time for us to enter another race together. And time for us to hit the road to practice up for that race.
Our first jog together this Spring started a little later in the morning than usual. I’d slept in that Saturday, and by the time I got downstairs and asked her to get ready for the jog it was approaching 9:30 in the morning. And temps were already approaching the mid-80s. Now I don’t normally bring a water bottle when jogging this distance, tho my daughter likes to have one. In our haste to hit the road I totally forgot to bring it.
You can likely imagine what happened next. With the late start, and high temps still rising, and no water to cool down, she let me know, fairly quickly, how she felt. Hot, tired, thirsty. And not exactly having fun.
We got through that run, the two of us, but it wasn’t pretty. And as a parent I realized I’d really screwed this one up. I should have planned our jog together much, much better.
Our second run a few days later was entirely different. We started at 6:30 in the morning, three hours earlier, and temps were a good 15 degrees cooler. And this time I remembered to bring the ice water. Even more we took the time to plan where we’d break to enjoy that water.
And her affect during this second jog? It was entirely different. She smiled, she joked, she seemed relaxed, clearly enjoying the experience. She didn’t get winded or too hot either. When we stopped mid-way for our water break she took a good long swig of the ice water, let out a deep Ahhhhhhh, and exclaimed, “heavenly water!” “Heavenly water!”
She couldn’t have been happier. I knew, in that moment, that all of her earthly needs had been met. So much so it felt, well, downright divine. This time perhaps I’d done a better job at parenting.
The text from Matthew 6 is a story about a different Father, a much better Father, a God the Father. And unlike this earthly father here, God has a much better track record when it comes to caring for his children.
In the text we’re reminded simply not to worry.
Do not worry about your life. Don’t worry about what you’ll eat, or drink, or your body, or what you’ll wear. Instead we’re asked to strive for the kingdom of God, and focus on that. And when we do? All these other things will be given to us as well.
It is this look into the nature of God that I find really, really comforting.
As an earthly father I find myself torn at times. Torn between going with what *I’d* like versus making sure my kid’s needs get met. I enjoyed sleeping in that Saturday morning, for sure. But while I slept in it got hot, and that made for a tougher jog. Even worse I defaulted to *my* preference, of not bringing a water bottle, and completely forgot that our daughter really appreciates having one.
Parenting, at best, often seems like a series of trial and error. I seriously screwed up with that late, hot, waterless run. Your father is sorry kiddo. And your father will remember to plan better whenever we run again. That’s a promise.
I think God the Father is more like that second run that we did.
God never sleeps in at the expense of the kids. Instead God checks the temperature before we head out. And God jogs alongside us, throughout life, with us every step of the way.
God doesn’t forget our earthly needs. Things like food, and clothing, and yes, certainly water. God here too, always has our back.
And God doesn’t fail to plan. Instead God has marked out a path for us well in advance. God knows when we need a break. God encourages us to rest, to replenish, to celebrate the Sabbath.
As was then 2,000 years ago is still true now: as a people we love to worry. The next time you feel the urge to worry I invite you to consider this Matthew text. Instead of spending all that effort worrying, strive first for the kingdom of God. For when you do you’ll find yourself jogging alongside your Creator, stride by stride, with a much lighter burden than you currently carry. And all those earthly needs you normally worry on? They’ll be met. And the result will be downright heavenly. Amen.