The Moment God Called Me to Run a Marathon

By Kacy Yardley, Oceanhills Covenant Church


Photo by Gideon Tsang

In all honesty, I did not expect to be here. Writing my story about how God called me to run a marathon. (Seriously, did I just write that? Gulp.)

I never thought God would call ME to run a marathon. First, because I hate running. Like, really completely loathe it. I do yoga. Because there is no shin-splitting impact. Second, because our church has partnered with Covenant Kids Congo and Team World Vision to run to provide clean water in the DR Congo (among the very poorest countries in Africa) for the last four years. Heck, I’ve introduced the stories from the stage, I’ve downloaded and prepped the videos behind the scenes, I’ve followed up the sermons with worship songs about surrender and courage. I’ve supported and cheered on some of my very best friends, coworkers, and church family as they ran their hearts out.

But I never once heard that still small voice telling me to run. Never felt my heart beat faster, knowing God was stirring something in me. Never had the teary moment when I knew I had to run. I knew I had to support, and cheer, and give. But run? Nope.

Until this year.

There was the same compelling message. Same reality, knowing I would give money and time toward bringing clean water to the precious children I saw on the screen. And yet, the questions kept running through my head: Should I do it? Is this the year? My answer was a firm no. I wasn’t feeling it. Yet, that Monday night I went to sleep and had dream after dream about the marathon. About the children lugging heavy jugs to fill with water that could kill them. Dreams that I was up early on Saturday morning running.

Then Jesus woke me up that morning before my alarm. I felt Him saying, “Come talk to me about it.” As I went to be with Him, I told Him, “You are going to need to make this really clear. Make it a yes or a no, because I don’t want to keep thinking about it.” And then I bargained. I told Him if the word ‘run’ was in any of the Scripture or books I read that morning, then I would do it. I would run. No questions. No more excuses. I would just sign up as an act of obedience.

Just to be clear, I don’t ever ask for signs like that. I’d probably tell you that bargaining with God like that was manipulative, or coercive, and God doesn’t work like that – but honestly? I think I was just hoping I’d be off the hook.

Randomly, I ended up in Lamentations of all places, and read this verse:

“Tears stream from my eyes because of the destruction of my people! My tears flow endlessly; they will not stop until the Lord looks down from heaven and sees. My heart is breaking over the fate of all the women of Jerusalem” (Lamentations 3:48-51 NLT).

I had just witnessed a dear friend cry like that over the people of Congo. Tears streaming, flowing endlessly, heart broken. The verse gave me pause – but more to notice that I was not reacting that way. Surely that meant something, right?

Then came these verses:

“See how the precious children of Jerusalem, worth their weight in fine gold, are now treated like pots of clay made by a common potter. … The parched tongues of their little ones stick to the roofs of their mouths in thirst” (Lamentations 4:2,4 NLT).

Seriously, Lord?!

And then in Chapter 5, verse 11: “Our enemies rape the women in Jerusalem . . .”

And in verse 13: “. . . and [children] stagger under heavy loads . . .”

As I read, I was replacing “Jerusalem” with “DR Congo,” thinking of our brothers and sisters there. The women and children who walk long distances for dirty water, carrying heavy jugs in the blistering heat. The women and children who walk on remote paths winding through the jungle, where they could face the risk of assault.

Now, I know I’m taking these verses out of the context of what was happening in the story in Lamentations. But God was using these references, these statements, to crack my heart open. Just a little. Eyes tearing up, but my resolve still firm that I hadn’t seen the word ‘run’ yet, I continued into the books I was reading.

I picked up a book on Sabbath practices, thinking, Surely this will be safe. This book is all about rest! Three quarters of the way down, on the first page, there it was: the word RUN. I was stunned. I just sat there staring at that word. RUN. I underlined it. I kept reading and came to the second RUN. I slowly circled it. As I finished the paragraph, I started laughing as I boxed in the third RUN in bold definitive lines. It may as well have been a flashing neon sign. Okay, Jesus. I hear you.

It’s not the tearful, heart-pounding movement toward YES I always expected. But I knew beyond a doubt that God was making it clear that this was my next step of obedience to Him.

So I will run. I will say, “Yes, Lord. You want my legs? You’ve got ’em. You want my pain? I will run in Your name, and for Your children. You want me to ask people to spend their money (this is almost the hardest part for me!)? I will do it. I will do it because I trust You . . . and because I’ve seen a glimpse of how much you love me, and I KNOW that you love your children in the DR Congo exactly as much. And it grieves your Father’s heart to see them suffer. So I will say YES.”

Will you say yes with me?

I’m running the LA Marathon with Team World Vision to expand access to clean water; my marathon support will go specifically to CKC clean water projects in Gemena, DR Congo. The needs are real, and we believe that we can end the clean water crisis in our lifetime. That is crazy. And amazing.

Kacy Yardley is the Director of Worship and Creative Arts at Oceanhills Covenant Church in Santa Barbara, wife to her college sweetheart Brian, and mom of two girls, Linden (9) and Berrit (5). She’s training for the LA Marathon on March 18 and has already raised about $7,000 for clean water in Congo. When she’s not leading worship, reading, cooking, or playing with her kids, these days you’ll find her . . . running. Donate to Kacy’s race here.


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