“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 3:20
Scripture gives us a small glimpse of what the end times will look like when all the believers in Christ will stand before the throne. John saw a great number of people from every distinct nation, every diverse culture, from all people groups and dialects. There were too many to count and they were all standing before the Almighty God, El Shaddai, worshiping and declaring that salvation belongs to God and to His Son Jesus Christ. What an awesome picture of God, sitting on His throne, while everyone in His presence will be honoring and worshiping Him. This is a beautiful image of all the diversity in the world coming together, united, under the banner and salvation of the God who saves. He is God among the nations and over every living tribe and tongue.
I’ve lived on the Navajo Indian reservation most of my life, with the exception of my college and seminary years. It is beautiful in this part of the world—our landscape is unique, exquisite, breathtaking, and absolutely stunning. The reservation is surrounded by some of the most popular and scenic national parks. This land boasts in its beauty and attractiveness and is considered an unparalleled treasure. I am blessed to be living in such a remarkable area of God’s creation and I get to enjoy His handiwork every day when I walk out my front door. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its peoples belong to him” (Psalm 24:1). This Scripture speaks volumes to me because it gives me purpose, it gives me a place in this world, and I know I have a Creator and I belong to Him. I am completely surrounded by the awesomeness of God’s creation, and I am humbled to be able to see it every day.
Think back to March of 2020—we all know what happened in our world at that time. We were seeing reports of this highly contagious virus that was working its way across the continents and getting closer to the United States. For most of us, before we could even blink, we were entering our first pandemic. I found myself affixed to the television, listening to the news and absorbing anything remotely about this COVID-19 virus. That was a bad idea. Normally, I have a calm, cool, and collected kind of personality—I usually don’t allow situations to rule my emotions, and I certainly don’t display them. However, in this deeply disturbing time, I allowed the situation to overtake my mind and it wasn’t pretty. Panic, anxiety, stress, and worry all seemed to be flooding my mind and my heart. Instead of filling my mind with “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10), fear gripped me and wouldn’t let me go. I was falling more into despair and couldn’t get out.
One day I felt such an intense feeling of panic accompanied with an alarmingly fast heart rate. What was happening to me? Do I have COVID? Was I in contact with anyone symptomatic? Should I drive myself to the hospital? Am I contagious? What about the children? I don’t want to leave them without a mother! Who will care for them? On and on it went. My mind spiraled out of control deeper into an abyss of trepidation. It felt like my brain was on information overload, my breathing was becoming unbearably fast, my heart was pounding, and I was becoming hysterical.
At that moment, I realized God needed to take over because I was in a deeply wretched frame of mind. In an instant I remembered some Scripture verses a friend had texted me earlier in the day to help with some of my worry. I turned my Bible to 1 Timothy 1:7 and repeated this Scripture over and over again until it calmed my racing brain and troubled soul. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (NKJV). In the context of this passage, Paul is writing to Timothy, encouraging him not to be afraid to serve his community as a young follower of Christ. This message spoke directly to my heart because I was indeed afraid to go out and serve my community because of this terrible virus called COVID.
Running as Worship
I made a decision as I fell asleep to the comforting words of Psalm 4:8, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” I determined to begin a time of intentional regimen of exercise. It began with daily walks with my family to the middle of the airport fence line. It was only one mile down and one mile back—easy. I enjoyed getting outside for fresh air and catching up with my husband. The kids delighted in examining insects and throwing rocks into the field with an occasional foot race to our stopping point. It was something we all relished in and looked forward to, since most of the day we were busy inside, continuing our homeschool journey. After a few weeks of walking, my mind seemed to become more settled, calm, and peaceful. The time spent outside, enjoying God’s magnificent creation, together with my family, was doing something tremendous within me.
I resolved to begin running as a way to spend time with the Lord in worship, prayer, and contemplation. This was a way for me to nurture my relationship with my Heavenly Father, the Creator of the heavens and earth. It was my time to sing, to pray, to talk, to cry, to lift up my voice and bless His holy name and to worship Him in spirit and in truth. It was truly a time of spiritual nourishment to my weary and broken soul. Psalm 19:1 says “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” His workmanship was all around me, in the extraordinary rock formations, the vibrant colors, the distinct earthly layers, and the elegant desert flora. His creation is all around us, speaking to us, painting a picture for us to see the lofty hand of a brilliant and extravagant Creator. This time alone in the presence of our Almighty God allowed the Holy Spirit to heal my mind and bring comfort and peace where there was distress.
A few times out of the week I try my best to drag myself out of bed and head outside for a run of four miles beside our local airport fence line. It’s not fun for me to pull off the warm cozy covers to get ready to run. However, after all the morning inconveniences that my mind and body simply do not enjoy, I walk outside and take a deep breath of fresh air. I am reminded that God is certainly good. His promise to bring forth the sunrise everyday never ceases. I remember that His mercies are new every morning and His love never ends—He is faithful (Lamentations 3:22-23).
For many Indigenous people, running has been used as a tool for individual spiritual renewal as well as for the physical benefit and enjoyment of the community. As an Indigenous person myself, I can look to these characteristics and personally identify with each one. As a born-again believer, forgiven and covered by the grace and atonement of Jesus Christ, I can worship God in a way that not only honors my heritage but honors and glorifies the One who gave me life. I can pick up my Navajo hymn book and sing “Amazing Grace” in the Navajo language as well as read Scripture from my Navajo language Bible. I can run to the eastern morning sky and, instead of offering my blessing to Mother Earth, I can give my worship to “the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the sea and everything in them” (Psalm 146:6).
There is beauty in diversity because He created diversity. As God’s creatures, we were not created to worship in the same manner, but to worship in a way that uniquely expresses the beauty in our different cultures, languages, and traditions.