“But dude, what you guys are doing is like, gnarcore. See, I had to make up a new word just to describe it. Gnarly and hardcore. This trip is Epic… I love you guys.”
Our trip took us into the small and unique town of Gualala, Wa-La-La. After a brief hello to our hosts at the church, we were literally locked in the church that was decorated for an Australian Outback VBS theme, not knowing where the lights were or the layout of the building, but given an array of foods to try and eat. I think for dinner that night I devoured an appetizing sandwhich and 10 “kangaroo dropping” cookies that a member of the congregation so gracefully named. The freedom we felt in this town was unlike any we have felt so far. That night, jumping at the opportunity to explore Gualala, we headed down to the beach and listened to some live jazz at Bones Roadhouse Grill. It was an interesting stay there. We got the rest we needed, had a great place to sleep up in the loft, and had the glorious view of the ocean from where the church settled itself on the hill.
But words can’t describe the loneliness we felt there. Sure we talked to a couple people on Sunday and it was nice to share with them, but we didn’t connect. It seemed that what we are taking part in over this summer was misunderstood. An obligatory sense of fellowship was shared it seemed. “Glad you could make it, here is a place to stay, it’s amazing what you are doing. Now go to sleep.”
Writing this, I am very hesitant, but so very grateful for what we were provided with. I guess there are those that want to give and provide for a cause, but don’t fully understand why. “My canned goods donated is good enough right? The $30 I support a child in Africa makes me feel good, doesn’t it? I’m making Jesus proud of me, I think. Isn’t this life about helping others?” Well yes, but it’s so much more! When asked a similar question Jesus answer that the two greatest things one can do are love your God with all your “heart” and your neighbors. But the greatest of these is to love your God. To mearly think that Jesus died on the cross for us to go to heaven, is like thinking that marriage provides us with health benifits and a good retirement. The relationship between these two ideas is obviously the most inportant entity. The journey we are all on and sometimes lose sight of is at the center.
We have lost heart it seems. I am slowly realizing this everyday on this trip. Seeing how many of our lives and relationships are just… well… “okay”. They are “fine”. Pretty “good”. Wouldn’t you rather search through a thesaurus and find some more compelling and lively words to describe our lives? And actually feel it’s true? Notice the next time you see a co-worker, friends, even relatives and close people you are in fellowship with, and listen to your interactions. “It’s great to see you.” “Yes it is, how are you doing this week.” “I’m fine, couldn’t be better, how ’bout you?” “Same, everything is great!” “Alright.” “It was good seeing you.” (Now this is our cue to end the conversation and run for the door. We wouldn’t want to be vulnerable or love on someone would we). “Good seeing you also, Bye.”
Half the time, I think we believers walk around like zombies. Wake up. Go to work. Come home. Go to bed. Don’t look at each other. We need to radically be waken up and live the life that God has given us.
There are some moments while we have been out here that I have felt like a prize pony. Yes a shiny, handsome, bulging flanks, blue ribbon winning, prize pony. Constantly, my heart is awakened to what I am actually doing out here. I feel like Paul and I don’t see it most of the time. We are just simply answering a call, running, doing the most amazing thing we will maybe every experience. We are taken around in our prize pony trailer, carted from person to person, and everyone is always so amazed at us.
“I’m just so glad we got to meet you!” Just to meet us?! Why don’t I just inject pride into my body with a hypodermic needle? However, because we fully know that none of this would be possible without God’s providence and guidance, pride has thankfully not been a very big issue for either of us. However, it’s hard for us to see how God is using us. What he really thinks and feels about us is hard to swallow. I’m just as broken and in need as the next person. We all want to be the hero, want to do something extra ordinary, but hardly take the chance and jump at what God puts at our feet. The disciples left everything to follow Jesus, Neo in the Matrix leaves his life to follow the truth, Woody in Toy Story ventures out of Sid’s room into the unknown to save the day. What others outwardly see, us running from Mexico to Canada, is an amazing feat. However, what about all the other amazing feats that happen behind closed doors. In our neighborhoods, in third world countries. The single mom who works nights and raises 3 kids, providing for and teaching them. The boy from Kenya who plays barefoot soccer, dreaming of one day being able to play on grass and for his country. The surfer who lives his life to glorify God through his ministry showing kids that extreme sports and Jesus can go hand in hand. There are millions of these heroes and stories that are just as amazing as ours. What God has provided for Paul and I, he has also given the same promises and life giving passions for you.
So we kept running, up the coast to another small community known as Point Arena. What once was a thriving and successful timber and fishing community, is losing it’s connection with the world. On a previous stretch of highway 1, we found it nearly impossible to run. Cars zipping down roads, into turns, cutting corners, and mostly driving rented RVs. Someone once said “A man feels most alive when he is inches to death.” Wow, how true. Can I get an amen, men? Just watch a boy play in the woods, in the backyard or playground and you will see how fitting this quote really is. And if this is true, then I have never felt more alive in my life. Literally inches from death every stride I take. So, to fix this situation, we came up with the ingenious plan of doing our run in Point Arena, “around the town, and I think they have a track at the high school”, I said. Then getting driven up the coast to the correct mileage that we ran. And stupidly, we settled on this plan. To run 30 miles, in the town of Point Arena. This day will infamously go down as, “The Day Zac Never Wanted To Run On A Track Again, Or In Any Type Of Circle, Till He Dies, And Quite Possibly Into the Afterlife, Amen”. I’m telling you, even if in heaven God has this sweet track, made of gold, and the rubber felt like running on springs, and thousands of people lined the fence and stands to cheer me on every lap, I probably still would have a problem with it. It’s so boring. So after getting to the school, we found one of the more unique high school tracks in the United States. It was only about 3 lanes wide, dirt (which it looks as if they just had horses circle the area till a path was made in the grass), and was on a slope. The most surprising thing was that it was actually very accurate in length. Each lap, dead on, a quarter mile. It was funny to think about how the school’s football team may have strategized in which direction they ran the football, so the visitors had to run up hill. The back straightaway of the track was downhill and the front straightaway is uphill. After running over 20 miles on the track, 80 laps, we needed to get out of there. The only eventful thing that happened was when a bird swooped down upon me. As I ducked I thought it had missed. We both stopped and laughed a little about what just happened, and then Paul realized it had attached itself to my back. Perched on me, it seemed at ease and comfortable. It didn’t want to leave as I tried shaking it off. Eventually it did, but I guess I have a certain mother bird aura to me. The rest of the 10 miles were spent running on the bluffs and cliffs of the ocean trails, around the lighthouse, over streams that poured out creating a waterfall into the ocean, and through no trespassing fences on an adventure to discover overgrown and unused roads.
Everyday I feel more awakened to my heart and the life that God gives me to live. We don’t all have to go out into the world to endure some quest or mission, or run 1,755 miles, we must simply awaken our hearts and listen to what God truly says about each one of us. We are not just “sinners, saved by grace”, but even more so, God rejoices with us that we are a “new creation… and that our heart is good”. Think of what we could all do, if we lived this way and truly believed the truths that God has spoken to us.