I received this earlier this week from Jared Combs (new member at OGC) with a little help from Jillian Groeneveld:
I’m not much of a writer, so Jill has agreed to help me with this article. The Lord has spoken so many priceless things to me recently so this is my attempt at jotting them down. As I ran the Disney marathon a few weeks ago and then reflected on it, I started seeing the symbolism between the journey of a marathon and the season of life I’m in these days. [It’s not like I was hurting for time to reflect as I ran 26.2 miles over a period of 6 hours!] The message wasn’t complex but simply fitting for where I am right now.
In 2005, as a freshman at Flagler College we took a class trip to Disney’s Magic Kingdom as part of the Orientation week. It was my first week at college and my drug and alcohol addiction was already gaining speed. I woke up around 5:30 a.m. to begin drinking liquor so that when I got on the bus at 6:30 a.m. to make the journey from St. Augustine to Orlando I would already be drunk. I brought along a bag of cocaine and a couple of marijuana joints that I had rolled the night before. We arrived and I felt that I was the life of the party trying to fill a void inside with alcohol, drugs, the acceptance of my peers, and girls. A few hours went by and as my buzz from alcohol wore off, I went into a bathroom and used a little over $100 worth of cocaine with a so called “buddy” of mine. Later as we came down from the coke we returned to the bathroom to smoke the joints to relieve any feelings of withdrawal that came after the coke high.
On January 8, 2012 I awoke at 2:30 a.m. to take a shower and get ready for the Disney Marathon. I had been running for a little more than 5 months, and after completing a half marathon with my fiancé Jillian about a month earlier, we were off to run our first full marathon. There might not be a better place then Disney to do it! We took off with 21,000 other people on this daunting task to finish what, as legends hold, killed a man named Pheidippides in the first century in Athens, Greece. Jillian and I saw my parents at the castle as we ran through Magic Kingdom at mile 10. [Mom & Dad faithfully drove us to the race, cheered us on, and brought us home as we whined!] Shortly after seeing their faces, we ran through the rest of Magic Kingdom. I hadn’t thought about that day in 2005 in a long while, but before reaching mile 11, we came around a corner and directly in front of us was that same bathroom I got high in over 7 years ago.
It all flashed through my head! The death and destruction of my addiction, how far the Lord has brought me as I celebrate the sixth year of my sobriety the day before our wedding (April 14!), the fact I was running next to my wife-to-be, and how God has blessed me with a purpose to reach other addicts. It’s amazing to be reminded that God is in the redemption business even if it’s through an experience in a bathroom at a theme park.
The larger symbolic message the Lord spoke to me through the marathon concerns the season of life I am in. I have been a great sprinter my whole life and we’re not talking about athletics. I believe John Maxwell said, “My gifts and abilities can take me farther than my character can hold me.” This has proven true repeatedly throughout my life as I have battled addiction, pain, severe loss, sin, and numerous decisions that have caused me to form Ishmael’s in my life. But now I’m in a new season – a season of sustained and focused strength as I look to the Lord, or try to look to Him, more than Jared. It’s a season where I don’t sprint only to fall short of the race God has called me to. Instead it’s a race like a marathon that goes the distance because I’m not running alone anymore – Christ is hand-in-hand with me! He has surrounded me with godly brothers to help me with this, but even more significantly He has provided a wife! This will be unlike any other relationship I have ever had. It won’t be short; I won’t quit before obtaining the goal; injury won’t occur like in the past; and I’m not running alone. Jillian and I have trained together for a race of 26.2 miles, but that is only one of the marathons we will run together. We are embarking on marriage and the rest of our lives. Placing all confidence in Christ, we will finish strong and together!