Shouts of Victory

By Arden Howell
July/August 2015

There's something strikingly wonderful about being surrounded by trees, rather than people. Though more physically difficult than pavement running, trail running is deceptively easier in the mental aspect. When distracted by the passing branches and roots, avoiding poison ivy, and keeping an eye out for strangers in the brush, the miles seem to pass more quickly as I plunge deeper into the forest. This running is a risk I gladly take and enjoy.

When my ear buds come out, I'm left to listen to my own heavy breathing and the birds buried back in the depths of the park. Back here, a person, snake, squirrel, stray cat, or kamikaze bird could decide at any moment to attack from the shadows. But I also have a powerful decision to make. I choose not to fear. The rush of flying past rocks and trees, through hills and ditches, is an unrivaled feeling in my life.

Waco, Texas does not provide the beautiful altitude of the Rockies or the unending beaches of California, but we have our own special treasure: Cameron Park. Second only to Central Park in New York City, it is the largest park within a city in the United States. It holds innumerable trails for running, biking, horseback riding and hiking, in addition to its views of the Brazos River and disc golf course. The trails hold my heart, though. There, I can leave behind the busyness of school and work and be reminded of the totally unnatural peace of Christ.

The freedom I find in an oasis of nature within a Texas city is not completely unlike the freedom I find in the Lord. Even when the sound gets to be too much, the people become overwhelming, and the workload is overbearing, the Lord reminds me that He is my oasis. My calm in the storm, as wild as He is. God is not tame, but He is peaceful.

Just as the next turn around the trees holds mystery, so does the next phase of life. As I graduate from college, I fear failure, loneliness, and a myriad other things, but I can trust that just as I am protected in the wilderness, I am protected in the unknown stages of life. Hannah Hurnard’s novel, Hinds Feet on High Places, depicts a young deer named Much Afraid, trying to find her way to the High Places, with the help of The Shepherd. The obvious metaphor seems to mirror my own life, as I have seen my own journey, full of twists, turns, ups and downs, progress with only the strength, wisdom and peace of my Great Shepherd. Facing each new challenge, I am reminded that “He surrounds me with shouts of victory,” and I need not be afraid (Psalm 32:7).

Hebrews 12 notes that, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw of everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles, and run with perseverance the race marked out for us, looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Hebrews 12:1-2). This verse is often quoted, but rarely analyzed. Here, Scripture reminds us that not only has Christ conquered the cross that we will have life, but we are also completely surrounded by an army of followers. The “great cloud of witnesses” is there to comfort us, as a tangible reminder of God’s holy presence, even in the quietest of places.

When we remove ourselves from the crowds, even from this group of fellow followers, our strength and our victory is already won- in the most dangerous and the most peaceful places.

About the Author

  • Arden_Howell's picture

    Arden Howell is a journalism student at Baylor University with a passion for all things mountainous. Having felt the presence of the Lord most strongly there, she is striving to find employment in one of the beautiful corners of the US, overcome by altitude. 

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