Just the other day, while on my morning run, I had a rather sublime revelation. I get these “running revelations” quite a bit actually. Maybe it’s the increased blood flow, or the quiet time, or the aloneness of it all, I really don’t know. Whatever it is, I like it. Perhaps I’ll write more about these running revelations sometime, but for now I want to share with you one in particular that God showed me earlier this week.
The setting was at the Unity in Ministry Conference in Washington, DC. The timing of the conference, for me, could hardly have been worse. I’d just returned from a lengthy trip to New Zealand and Australia. My nights were days and my days were nights. Now I’m an eight-hour-a-night guy. Sure, I can survive on less, but I cannot thrive on less. So imagine how I was feeling when my hours of sleep per night, while at the conference, were four, six, zero, and four, respectively.
My lack of sleep put my whole body in a kind of indescribable and fuzzy haze, not exactly a state of mind and body conducive to deep thinking and meaningful interactions. I was blasted both physically and emotionally. After a particularly sleepless night (the zero-hour-night mentioned above), the sun rose and I suddenly, oddly, felt a little energized. What to do? What else? Go for a run!
An early morning run after a sleepless night might seem like a strange idea, but, as it turns out, it was just what I needed.
The crisp air burned my lungs and awoke me from my haze. The early morning sun was glorious and golden, a photographer’s dream, light dancing through the green of the leaves. There was no wind, and the scene just dripped an Edenic stillness and contentedness. As I ran, I breathed deeply and intentionally, waking with every stride.
I began, as I often do while running, to pray. I asked Jesus to teach me something, anything. I should add that at this point the Unity Conference was hardly unified. I had found this troubling and was struggling somewhat to make sense of the diversity of perspectives and opinions.
Then it happened.
A Chestnut-sided Warbler sang lustily while I passed through a grove of particularly beautiful trees. Then the Yellow Warbler did the same, followed by the Brown Thrasher and the Wood Thrush and the Catbird and more besides. The calls were profoundly beautiful, more beautiful than I ever remembered them being.
Then it dawned on me.
Their calls, though beautiful, were different, diverse, and distinct. Each had something to say. There was harmony, unity even, but not uniformity. Quite suddenly, I had a whole new take on the Unity Conference. Each participant was a child of God. Each was a committed Seventh-day Adventist. Each had a voice. Those voices, though not identical, were important and beautiful, and I needed to hear each voice for the beauty and perspective it was communicating.
I finished my run and made my way to the conference room with a new and better attitude. Jesus had taught me a lesson through His feathery messengers; not only a lesson for that weekend, but for a lifetime: to listen for the beauty and the harmony, and not expect or desire everyone in the church to say and sing exactly the same thing.
“There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification” (1 Corinthians 14:10, KJV).
Listen, my friend, for the beauty.