I have to admire marathon runners. I honestly don't know how they do it. Despite the physical strength required to run 26.2 miles, mental strength is also required. I can't seem to concentrate on a single thing for more than a few minutes. Imagine having to focus your thoughts for anywhere from 3-6 hours? Sure, you can plug in your iPod, but that's a lot of time alone with your thoughts. They say 80-90 percent of "self-talk" is negative. In other words, thoughts like "you can't do that" or "if only I was like him/her" or "I'll never..." A weak mind over the course of a race can be bombarded with such thoughts.
When I was younger and actually ran a little (and by little, I mean I sprinted. 400m was "long distance" for me) I read an article in Runner's World called the "Nine Golden Cheetahs" that has always stuck with me. The story was of an African runner who would run for miles and miles. At some point, he would reach his "wall" where he strength could no longer sustain him, but only by sheer will-power could he reach his destination. He also hit a mental wall where his thoughts failed him. Delirium would set in. It was at this point that he saw nine golden cheetahs staring at him. As he approached, the cheetahs began to run away towards his destination. He was compelled to follow them. The will to follow those cheetahs overcame his pain, his exhaustion until he reached his goal and the cheetahs were gone.
Paul, when describing our adopted relationship with our Lord in heaven, said we received a Spirit that allows us to call Him 'Abba'. (Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15). Abba is an informal term and would have sounded shocking to his Jewish audience. The message being that we have such a close relationship that we can be informal with God. I've heard others pray to "Papa" in that same vein.
Yesterday my wife ran a half-marathon. Her second, to add to 6 full. I admire her deeply for the commitment she makes and the strength it takes. She's found that her "wall" hits right around the maximum distance run during training. But the mental wall can happen at any time. Her mental wall hit with a little over a mile to go. She knew she was close and was making good time. But she saw something out of the ordinary out of the corner of her eye that tripped her concentration. When she tried to regain focus, she heard the words, "you can do it, mija!" coming from somewhere deep inside of her.
Mija is a term much like Abba. It is informal and endearing. But it's not a word used casually, it is loaded with too much affection. My wife is Latina but she hasn't been called mija since her grandmother would call her that as a child. That voice was out of the blue and unexpected. But she could feel herself somewhat carried the last mile.
We had a long conversation last night about where this voice could have come from. A distant memory? Did she overhear someone else? Was it God reaching out and giving her a hug? We settled on the latter. We recognize that sometimes God reaches out to us and whispers in our ear. I've heard such voices when facing hard decisions. But I have to admit I've never had an example so personal, so endearing.
My question this week: Has God ever audibly spoken to you? What did He say?