It seems I am repeatedly, throughout every day, thinking about the word distance. If I’m not just thinking about it, I am planning for distance, or traveling some distance, or attempting to craft ways to either eliminate or shorten distance. There are three arenas that distance perpetually appear in my thinking.
First, I have the privilege of coaching the cross country team at North River School just down the road from us. The junior high team runs 1.5 mile races, while the high school team runs 3 mile races. Part of my responsibility as coach is to get my team to the point where they can cover those distances. Somehow though, my team is surprised when I tell them how far they will be running in practice on any given day – I have to remind them that: a. cross country is a running sport, and b. running two laps on the track is insufficient to get them ready for meets. Instead, we need to run longer distances. So far, we have topped out at 4 miles, but I’m hopeful by the end of the season that we will get in one long run a week of 8-10 miles. For those of you wondering, yes, I do run with my team, though I am tempted to coach them running on the road from the comfort and ease of my vehicle.
The second arena that distance is becomes a considerable thought is everyday life. As a reminder, we are in a fairly remote part of the country. Certainly there are other places far more remote, but for two raised-in-the-city-with-every-convenience-within-minutes-of-us folks like myself and the beautiful bride, this is remote, nearing isolation. From our driveway, it is 18 miles to a grocery store. 16 miles to a gas station. Three miles to a visible cell tower (the tower is still far off – three miles is the distance from our home before you can actually see it) – that makes sending and receiving calls a challenge. Some of you might be aghast to know that we are 19 miles from a Starbucks. We are around 60 miles from Target or Costco. When we run out of things, we have to think whether our need for that thing is greater than the distance we would need to travel to get that thing. More times than not, we choose to go without that thing. That was a hard adjustment for the guy who used to be able to walk to Fred Meyer at 10:30 at night to get the needed thing, and be done getting it by the time the store closed at 11. Our remote location has often caused me to wonder – what would happen if I ordered a pizza to be delivered to us? Would they even come? If they did, would my pizza still be warm? Would the delivery fee be twice the amount of the pizza? I may test this one day. Stay tuned.
Some days, thinking about either arena of those distances is an unpleasant task.
“Do I really have to run this far?”
“Why can’t somebody have enough vision to put a gas station closer to us?”
“If we go into town for that needed thing, we might as well get the rest of all our needed things, and that is going to take us all day.”
“How hard is it to put up a cell tower?”
I’m not proud of having those thoughts, just telling you what the thoughts are. Usually though, those thoughts diminish with two other thoughts.
One, I remind myself that whatever struggles or difficulties I may be experiencing with distance, the overwhelming majority of them are first world problems. That is, people in third world countries, or living in third world conditions, are not likely to be sympathetic to my difficulties, and are more likely to be offended that I have them labeled as difficulties. When I am mindful that I have more food stored up at home than I can eat in one day, or that I have more than one set of clothes to wear, or that I have access to fresh and clean water wherever I go, the complaints quickly leave. I run because I want to and it is a hobby– others have to run to avoid danger. I may gripe about having to drive so far to get gas, while others have to walk for miles just to get water. As a warning to you, if you find that I appear unsympathetic or unwilling to listen to your complaints, it is probably because I find your complaint to be a first world problem.
The second thought actually gets us into my third arena when it comes to thinking about distance. It is a present distance, that if not corrected by a sovereign act of God, will become an eternal distance. That is the distance between man and God. Everywhere I go, I face this distance. I see the willful rejection of the gospel of Christ. I see the effects of living life for selfish purposes rather than God’s, and I see people sprinting away in an attempt to get themselves as far away from God as possible. There is a myriad of directions I can take this, but to tie this all together I’m choosing a line of self examination – Am I as brokenhearted over those who have distanced themselves from God as I am about my intermittent cell signal? While I think about and/or travel distances on the road, am I considering the fact that those who choose to live for themselves will be eternally separated from God? Do I daily comprehend the distance between man and God because of sin? Do I daily worship God for sending Christ to eliminate that distance? Am I praying daily for those who are rejecting Christ to repent and believe the gospel? Am I active in proclaiming the glorious gospel, presenting the truth that Christ died for sinners, to be the bridge between us and God? Are you?
By God’s grace and sovereign will, that distance no longer exists in my life. May God grant me His grace, His wisdom, and His power to love those without Christ so much that I can’t help but to tell them how they too can have their greatest distance covered in a moment.