There are some people who can show you where North (or South/South-West for that matter) is no matter where they are. Even in an unknown city or a foreign country. They have this built-in compass. You can spin them around and then ask them or wake them up at 3 in the morning and they will be able to tell you which direction the sun will rise or how to drive to get to the highway.

I am not one of them.

I can get lost in a house. In fact I regularly do. It is a standing joke in our family that I go to visit someone and then when I want to leave I go to the washroom door or the door that leads to the balcony at the back. The hosts then usually assume I want to, well… use the washroom or go for a tour of the house or they just look bewildered. That is my cue that I got it wrong, again.

I also love exploring. So before GPS I often planned a 5k run which then turned out to be a wee bit longer. Or a lot longer. Earlier I was a lot fitter than I am now.

morning run

I was about 14 when I won my first 15k race. It happened in Kuruman (South-Africa, Northern Cape) and it went like this: I started off pretty well, soon overtook the leader and built up a lead so that I was all alone. That was when the problems started. They did not have marshals at every corner, but indicated the route with painted arrows.  On one particular long stretch there was no indication that I was still on the right track so I turned where it appeared logical that they must have forgotten to put an arrow. By some luck (or probably destiny) the organizer of the race came past in his pickup truck after I have done about a kilometer and he confirmed my suspicion that I was lost. He picked me up and dropped me where I took the wrong turn. So after a while I again overtook the leader and saw the look of disbelief on his face. Precious. Luckily I was able to stay on track after this and won a bag of oranges.

On another occasion in Great Brak River a half marathon became probably about 27k. I was as fit as can be and prepared to do a PB on a flat, fast course. There were also 5k and 10k runners and various turn-offs for the different distances. But at some point I realized that I was all alone. I must be ahead of everyone else, I thought. One guy at a refreshment table applauded with a smile and asked: “Are you first?” I told him I don’t know and then he laughed. I was doing 4 minute kilometers and now the doubt made me run even faster… Soon I started passing the back-markers and that’s when the horrible truth set in: I’ve done it again.

During my recent holiday in South Africa I went running in Still Bay and did not take my phone with GPS because “I know the place. I cannot possibly get lost.” Big mistake. I ran up a steep hill to the local runway for small planes and after running around there a bit started descending on a path that I have previously taken or so I thought. It was a road to nowhere. Needless to say, it became a much longer run and even a bit dangerous as I climbed down crumbling walls of sand holding on to branches or grass. When I finally got home I was scratched all over, a bit dehydrated and more than a little relieved. But the embarrassment prevented me from complaining. No, it was a great run, thanks for asking.

At least, even though I am lost in body, my Spirit and Soul have been found. What a thought that on this earth which is not even a speck in the cosmos and where I am on it not even a speck, I am never lost. Running, all alone in the early morning darkness, God is tracking my every move more precisely than GPS can. My every thought is clearer to him than the clearest Skype call and He knows my face better than any Facebook friend.

I remember the old song by John Newton written in 1772 which I first sang while I was in the Canaries (South African Defence Force Church Choir and Concert Group) in 1990.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

I was lost. He called. I answered. And I was found.

May the “hound of heaven” pursue you with His goodness and grace and find you and may you answer when he calls your name and not be lost anymore, but found.

Keep running

Stephan

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