I was halfway through the race and I was increasingly aware of a sharp pain in the bottom of my right foot. I am sure the adrenaline rush of the excitement of being in competition had masked any pain at the beginning of the race. But with every stride, the pain was growing in my heel. The nerves were sending little messages to my brain. I was interpreting those messages and they were informing me that not only was there “something” in my shoe, but it was a sharp and painful “something”.
If this was a practice session, I would have stopped at this point and taken the time to remove my shoe and dump the “something” on the ground. But not today. No, today I was racing and I was running fast and I thought I had a great chance to win the race, so I continued to run because I didn’t want to take the time to stop, untie my shoe, take it off, shake loose any object in the shoe, put my shoe back on, and then tie the laces again. I chose to ignore it and continue running.
But ignoring it didn’t work. I tried to pretend it wasn’t there. I tried to move forward without dealing with it. I first tried to spring ahead, but the pain revealed its power.
I have felt this kind of thing before.
It was a tiny pebble in my shoe.
With each stride the stone began to grow. With each step, it seemed to get larger and more painful. I then began to flex my arch and rotate my ankle a little, thinking I could “bounce” the rock to another part of my shoe and eliminate or reduce the pain. That actually worked, but only for a short while. After a few steps, the now sized “boulder” would “bounce” back to another painful spot.
As the pain continued to mount, my running pace started to slow down. Soon I would be overtaken by other runners and any hopes of winning the race were now dashed. But I could still place pretty high in the meet so I continued to run.
Pressing on now became a challenge. It was me versus “the stone”. I’m sure to anyone who was watching, it must have looked very weird: running on the outside of my foot, then the inside, then the heel, then the toes. The harder I ran, the more I felt its sting. Before long, the payoff wasn’t worth the pain – and I stopped. As long as that rock was in my shoe, running wasn’t an option. I took the time to clear the stone and as you already have guessed, when I did finally take off my shoe, the “boulder” wasn’t much more than a tiny pebble. It was barely visible. How did this irritant get into my shoe in the first place? I was so angry because I really was in position to win the race and now I had to deal with losing, not to mention the pain in my foot as well.
As I reflect on this event that took place close to 40 years ago, I think about the applications of this to my life in general. How often do I neglect to deal with the small “pebbles” that work their way into my life because I am just too busy to stop or think I can work around them? So much better to deal with them as soon as they arise.
I was thinking that my shoe is like my mind. I am not always quick to deal with issues early on and most times I would rather than let it bounce around and eventually become a bigger problem than they ever needed to be. Sometimes, to be very honest, I think I have actually allowed those pebbles in my life because I did not want to deal with them in my life. Prideful thoughts, vengeful thoughts, self-hatred thoughts, “poor-me” thoughts, worry, bitterness, anger, lust, jealousy… there is no end to the list of pebbles that could work their way into my thinking.
The Scripture admonishes us to not let these pebbles hang around. For example, we are told to not let the sun go down on our anger. That means, if you have a pebble of anger in your mind, deal with it before it consumes you. Hebrews 12:15 addresses how a root of bitterness can grow up to “cause trouble and defile many”. I’ve seen the fruit of bitterness in people’s lives and it can destroy them…often starting with the smallest and most insignificant of a pebble, but then growing and festering until it consumes them.
In James, we are reminded of how these small things, left to themselves, will follow a devastating path: So, let us consider how to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5) and stop at the first sign of infiltration and remove the little pebble. The rest of our walk or run will be so much more pleasant!
You can’t run with a rock in your shoe. You can try, but you won’t get very far.
It stopped me dead in my tracks. I couldn’t believe something so small could be so powerful, but it was.
I wonder what is hindering me from getting where I want to go?
What have I been ignoring, fooling myself into thinking it’s too small to affect me?
What is the pebble in my shoe?
Thinking it through, I am able to name some things that have held me back for years, and others that have held me back for days. But here’s what I realized. It all matters. We give our power away to anything we choose to ignore. And that choice could be what keeps us moving forward or standing still.
What is the thing that’s holding you back from running at full speed in life?
You can keep pretending it’s not there.
You can accept its limits on how fast and how far you can go.
Or you can deal with it and get to running.
What are going to do with the pebbles in your shoe?