Not long ago, Robbie took me along on a business trip to a seaside resort. Knowing that he’d be in meetings all morning, I decided to go for a run on the beach.
I mean, like, literally I couldn’t. There was too much seaweed.
At first, I didn’t think it would bother me. Sure, I was a little squeamish about stepping on it, but there was nowhere else to plant your feet, so I had to. But each incoming wave brought a fresh batch of the stuff, and so firmly did the greenish-brown yuck wrap itself around my ankles that, if I didn’t know better, I would have sworn that it was after me – and that it was maybe even carnivorous.
I slowed to a walk, yanking my feet free with each step. As I did so, the Apostle Paul’s admonition in Hebrews 12 flashed through my mind:
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.
“Everything that hinders.” That category undoubtedly includes some good things that, when allowed to flourish like a crop of seaweed, can slow our progress toward God’s real purposes for our lives. Volunteer commitments, hobbies, relationships, and even some ministry opportunities might be pulling at our ankles, making us less able to pursue the work to which we are truly called.
“The sin that so easily entangles.” Ouch. I guess some sins are fairly easy to avoid (murder comes to mind, although even there I am at least partly guilty, since there are definitely some folks that I’ve wished would just “go away”), but others can kind of sneak up you – things like pride or self-absorption or discontentment – and once they finish spinning their web, you feel trapped. Several of these little nasties came to mind as I worked to extricate myself from the slime, and I found myself wondering if Paul had ever tried to run in seaweed.
Lest you think I am exaggerating (a habit that can be, I admit, a “hindrance” in my life), allow me to share one more pic:
These guys were out there every morning, faithfully shoveling great wads of the stuff off the beach and burying it in the sand. I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for them (the way that one might pity Sisyphus, on the umpteenth roll of his boulder) or admire their diligence. Either way, they enhanced my understanding of Hebrews 12 in at least two ways:
First, throwing off life’s hindrances and entanglements is a daily job. We can’t get our priorities in order once and then figure they’ll stay that way. They tend to wiggle.
And second, if we’re having trouble getting rid of the seaweed (or even identifying where we’ve gotten tangled), it’s good to have a friend who will tell us the truth.
Particularly someone who’s willing to pick up a shovel and help.