Remember the old Jackson Browne song “Runnin’ On Empty”? It was brought back into my recent memory during the last election campaign of John McCain. As I revisited those lyrics, I realized that this could be the theme song for a good many of our lives.
“Running on – running on empty
Running on – running blind
Running on – running into the sun
But I’m running behind.” *
Even as Christians, we can be “runnin’ on empty” and “runnin’ blind.” Do you realize that? We have the race marked out for us, with Christ’s help to run it unwaveringly, but so often we train our own way and race with our own resources.
As I’ve grown in my faith over the past five years, this is a topic I’ve had to wrestle with and allow the Lord to win. It came to a point where, until I dealt with this issue specifically, I’d have to take a water break from the race God had designed for me.
My poor training started in my childhood. With no one to show me how to cope with the horrible realities I faced, I ran. Between choir and theatre and cheerleading and track and student council and color guard and friends’ houses and church events and softball and running blind into wherever I thought the sun was shining, you can bet I was empty. To fill up, I’d watch my regular television programs, all with families I wished were my own. I’d stuff my face with junk food at the same time, knowing that my taste palette would be satisfied eventually. It never was, but I kept swallowing anyway.
“But you were just a kid and weren’t taught any better,” you might say. “Besides, you coped the best you could.” This is true, but I was long into my adulthood before I realized I was still running the same way I had begun many years before. Only now I had my driver’s license.
“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels,
I don’t know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels.
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through.
Looking into their eyes, I see them running too.” *
All of a sudden, it occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one wearing the tread down on my tires. Surprisingly enough, I was in a great deal of traffic, with people just like me. Probably all for different reasons, but pedals to the metal, just the same.
On the race the Lord has marked out for us, sometimes we have to sprint, and sometimes hurdles are a part of our endurance training. Some seasons are busier than others, and we have no control over it. But I’m not necessarily talking about being too busy. I’m talking about running with the wrong source of energy. About becoming distracted with the audience on the sidelines. About taking shortcuts when the path marked before us gets too rocky. About going just because we’ve always gone.
Featuring Browne’s album, Rolling Stone magazine** wrote, “The title track was actually written when Browne was driving back and forth to the studio each day to make The Pretender. ‘I was always driving around with no gas in the car,’ he said. ‘I just never bothered to fill up the tank because -- how far was it anyway? Just a few blocks.’”
Wow. What a description of my life for so many years. Does this apply to you? Are you running on fumes, thinking that your fill-up is only a few blocks away?
The Lord desires that we run our races with a full tank of Him, my friends. For our own good, and also for the sake of those witnessing the race.
No matter if we are on a city road or a country one, a road under construction or one fully paved—God designed us to live with our eyes fixed on Him and our hearts full of Him. Otherwise, we’ll keep “running behind, running on empty—running blind.” With the joy of Heaven set before us, let’s allow the One who ran the race before us to retrain us, perfect us. Let’s keep running on—running on full.”Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
*Running On Empty—lyrics by Jackson Browne
**Rollingstone.com—Dec. 9th, 2004