Early one morning as I started a run, a small, tiny, inconsequential stone became lodged in the sole of my running shoe. I knew the stone was there because I could feel it. I shuffled my feet along the asphalt street in an attempt to dislodge it but that little stone would not budge!! Like all committed runners, I was determined that nothing, including that little stone, would stop my run. Nothing!! Many would say a runner’s aversion to stopping once a run has begun borders on foolishness however, from a runner’s perspective, the unwillingness to stop no matter what speaks of “focus” and “commitment” and the old adage “no pain, no gain”!! Runners are disciplined individuals who let nothing bother these excursions into the blissful world of running!! Besides, I was positive and confident that as I simply continued to run, that little stone would surely just go away. After a few miles, that little stone was still lodged in the sole of my shoe and it was beginning to change my stride. My foot and leg were beginning to hurt and I was beginning to become very aggravated at that little stone. Instead of a relaxing run, stress and aggravation were setting in. After another mile or so, I finally stopped, lifted my foot and with a flick of my finger, sent that little stone flying from the sole of my shoe. I returned to my run only to find I was now more relaxed, that my normal stride returned, and the pain in my foot and leg soon disappeared!! I was “right” again and continued to enjoy a wonderful run.
As I was cooling down and stretching after my run, my mind wandered back to that little stone. It hit me just how often my everyday life resembles this running experience. So many times, even as a believer in Christ, I take off “on the run” each morning, charging ahead with my jaw set to conquer the world no matter what!! There are mountains to climb and valleys to cross no matter what may come!! No stopping!! Commitments are clear and nothing is going to stop the achievement of success!!! Bring it on!!!!
But I sensed as I sat stretching that the Lord was trying to point out the lesson of that little stone, which needed serious attention on my part. The lesson He wanted me to understand had little to do with the sole of my shoe but everything to do with my soul. A rather obscure verse came to mind from the Song of Solomon 2:15, “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.” It really is the little things, which so often ruin my relationship with the Lord and seemingly throw me off stride as I face the demands of each and every day.
What are some of these little stones and little foxes that can be so ruinous? Well my list can be long and not very pretty. How about a “critical spirit”, simply planting discord with family, friends and coworkers? What about the matter of “impurity” as the TV channels or the internet are surfed?? How about the matter of “jealousy” as someone else receives recognition or acquires something I really desire? How about “selfish ambition” when my only motivation for action is in looking out for me? What about the matter of “hatred” toward someone who simply sees the world differently than I do? What about “deceitfulness” toward others when I express thoughts, opinions and ideas that are less than the truth just to gain favor? How about “slothfulness” in using the gifts and talents given to me through which others may be helped and encouraged? I can hear my own protests screaming in my ears, “Now wait just a minute. I am not some drunken bum, or an adulterer, or a murderer, or a thief, or a pornographer!” But that is just the point! As the Scripture says, it is the “little foxes that ruin the vineyard”.
As I considered these little stones, what became even more unsettling is the truth that I prefer to completely ignore these matters, and like the runner I am, just keep on running through life with my broken and painful stride. My refusal to stop and flick these little stones from my soul through prayer and confession (I John 1:9) is perhaps a revelation of an enormous stone of great consequence, that of “indifference” to the Lord my God. And is not this indifference simply pride and self-sufficiency?
I sat there and wondered how such indifference, pride, and self-sufficiency could root itself into my life. Was the reality of creation lost on even me, who claims Christ as Savior? Can I not see the horrific onslaught of sin and darkness sweeping over the Lamb of God as He hung on the cross for me? Has my mind not grasped the certainty of redemption? Has the joy of reading God’s Holy Word, the Bible, become lost in my world of constant activity? As these questions confronted me, I knew my “run” must stop and stop immediately. There could be no more running, no more living, with a painful stride. Revelation 2:5 (NIV) says, “Repent and do the things you did at first”. Just like that little stone lodged in my sole, I knew it was time to stop and take care of these other stones, these little foxes, in prayer before the Throne of God.
My dearly beloved, what a blessed reality is the forgiveness of God! Oh that we would examine our lives long before the little foxes ruin the vineyard. Oh that our profession of faith in Jesus Christ would not simply be a passive truth but an active fire burning in our soul. May our hearts break with humiliation and shame before God as we realize the depth of sin and rebellion found in our indifference, pride, and self-sufficiency. The Apostle Paul had it right in II Corinthians 5:14-15 (NIV), “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
I do not believe in coincidences. As I ended this special time of prayer, I became very grateful to the Lord for that little stone in my sole.