Running the Hill

“Whenever you disobey, someone always gets hurt … and it’s usually you.”

I have ingrained this idea in my sons’ heads since they were little in an effort to remind them that disobedience comes with a cost.

It’s not something my dad explicitly told me, but it is a lesson he taught me through years of fathering me.

Those are the words that God gave me in the time before my sons were born. It’s part of the message that “younger me” is teaching me now.

As I am thinking about this whole concept of worship, it reminds me of a dream I just had (It’s 1:47 AM by the way. Good morning!)

If this comes off as just a series of rambling thoughts, then please excuse them … it means this is a message only for me.

But, if by reading these words, they mean something to you, then to God be the glory … He is the dream-giver.

This is a continuation of yesterday’s thoughts on worship … sharing my internal journey because if it helps no one else, I know it will help “future Dave.”


I dreamed I was a certain distance from home, yet not from my home here in Mobile.

Instead, I was a set distance from my favorite childhood home back in Louisiana.


This is peculiar because just a few nights ago I had a dream about buying that old house and introducing my family to it. (That house is not for sale, by the way … I looked)

Anyway, I was at least a half-marathon’s distance away from the house … I am not sure of the actual distance except that it was a struggle … it was some distance I have never run before.

In the dream, I was running at my own pace and trying to maintain it to ensure that I would have the strength and endurance to finish the run and make it back “home.”

The journey involved running through a lot of flat farmland … that was not so bad, I love running on flat ground!


An actual view from the Grabault Road.


The problem with the whole “race” in my dream is there is a huge hill towards the end of it where the farmland gives way to the civilization of my small town.

As I came to it, I wanted to quit. The same hills that seem slight when we are driving in our cars are the ones that kill us and destroy us when we have to run them.

That and anyone that knows my hometown knows there is a LOT of mileage between that hill on the Grabault Road (LA 3051) and any place you want to go in town.

It’s a distance you would not normally think about … until you had to run it.


That is the problem that cars have given us … the tendency to measure journeys in minutes rather than mileage.

It’s an example of how convenience lulls us to sleep.

I think the hill blocking my way home in my dream represents anything that I refuse to acknowledge and confront.

As a runner, it would demoralize me and make me turn around and forget going home.

I would have to train to defeat it or never be able to find rest.

I would have to condition my heart to stand the pressure of the added effort created by the incline.

I would have to build the efficiency back into my respiratory system so that I would not run out of breath … build the ability to get the oxygen to those burning muscles to keep them firing.

I would have to have the mental toughness to say, “Just a little further now.”

You see, that hill would take everything I’ve got. I am sure after a few moments on that hill, I would begin to ask myself, “Is home worth it?”


Of course, the key questions in this whole dream metaphor are:

“Why are you running?”

“Why did you leave home in the first place?”

Because I am hard-headed.

Because I think there is greener grass elsewhere.

Because I want the thrill of something new.

There is a multitude of reasons, yet the older I get, the more attractive the idea of the safety of home becomes to me.

Home, in this metaphor, is the place of safety, love, and peace.

I have made many choices that led me from “home” because I thought I knew what was right. I knew I had a better plan.

I have been just as disobedient as the sons I’ve tried to warn.

God is showing me the relationship of the two dreams and using them to draw me…

1. Buying my parent’s old house = being where I want to genuinely be.

2. Running back to that house = the Journey and expenditures it will take to get back to where I want to be.


To extend my metaphor a bit further, my way of disobedience leads away from home to the flat farmland of the Grabault Road and the Oak Ridge Road and eventually down to I-20 with all of its choices and possibilities.

The thrill of running down that huge hill on the outside of town would be a rush as I left all those rules and restrictions behind me.

The excitement and freedom of “making it out” as I made my own way would encourage me to just keep running until …

Eventually, something would remind me that it’s not home.

I would stop and see that I am standing in the midst of the cotton fields of unknown owners and begin to ask that most honest of questions.


“Where am I?”


It’s easy to get lost in the pursuit of our hopes and dreams.

It’s like falling asleep in an untethered boat. Eventually, the current would take me someplace I wouldn’t want to go.

Yes, it’s easy to become lost in the midst of the pursuit of happiness.

If I were to follow the messages of modern worship (yes, this is all about worship, remember), the best I would be able to do at that moment would be surrender and think about how good Home is and how much my Father loves me.

While those are good ideas, they would leave me in the midst of metaphorical cotton fields with farmers giving me strange looks as I stood in the road unmoving and waiting to die.

Without food or water, it wouldn’t take long before regret set in.

As I look at the cotton fields, I would be reminded of all the love and passion I invested in “my way.” All that I thought was so great and fulfilling took me from where I needed to be to survive.

The disobedience hurts me most because if I keep going this way, I would be destined to die out here … my bones to become fertilizer for the cotton that surrounds me.

I guess I could stand there and sing and sing and sing until my last breath was gone and then drop to the asphalt. (If my worship is only singing, then I have missed the whole point and I am as doomed as the runner who stops running)

Strangers would then walk slowly toward the lifeless body of the strange middle-aged runner who quit running. They would take his corpse and put him somewhere in the back forty to nourish the ground.

He would lay back there forgotten and alone.


To survive, I would have to change course.

I would have to turn around and set my sights back home.

It was my blasphemy that led me here … a refusal to accept the right path as truth … a practical form of physical, unspoken blasphemy.

And at that moment I would have to speak a curse on both myself and my situation with the only profanity that can take me back to where I need to be … I must speak and put feet to the word that is unspeakable in American pop Christianity.


I have to set my heart and my physical path back up the road I have traveled. Those who saw me run by earlier may think I am crazy, but they WILL see me GOING HOME!


We walk in fear of others no longer loving us if we speak the necessity of this truth.

Without repentance though, there is no worship.

Let that sink in a minute.

By reading this, you will notice that I love you enough to voice that word to you. (Especially you, future Dave.)

Without repentance, no man will ever see God.

Let that one sink in for a few more minutes.

God is the father whose house we spurned by following the harlotries of our own hearts. By that, I mean that we pursued things that were not God and gave them the time that we should have given to God alone.

We all like sheep have wandered blindly down that hill on the outside of town that leads from home … we have fallen asleep in the untethered boat and drifted to God knows where … far from home.

But did you catch what I just told you?

No matter how far from “home” you are, you are still “God knows where.”

You never fell off His GPS.

He knows exactly where you are and how to get you back home again.

We have to repent and change everything about us because Home is worth it.

We HAVE to make it home again. We have to find that place of peace.


Have you ever noticed when driving to a new place that it always seems to take longer to get there than to go home?

We have to watch for road signs and unfamiliar turns as we search for new destinations. But, in reality, we ALL know the way home.

Yes, the “Home factor” is in play and we are promised a quicker journey back to safety, comfort, and peace…except for one thing…

In this dream, I’m not driving…that means it won’t be easy.

In this dream, I am running…that always means the same thing…it’s gonna cost me something.

It reminds me of something King David once said, “I will not offer God something that costs me nothing.”

That would mean that perhaps repentance IS the highest form of worship?

Once the decision to turn around has been made, the problems begin to slam me.

Despair sets in as there is no food on the lonely highway. The only water is in ditches. There is no shelter from the blazing sun overhead except for the coolness of night.

How many miles left to go on this Road Back?

The first highway sign shows the mileage.

Too many.

And even if I did make it, there is The Hill blocking my journey at the end.

What’s the point? Just give up, right?

There’s just no way this is going to work.


I have a favorite race. It was the “Do It in the Bush 5k” at Cottage Hill Park years ago.

Why was it my favorite race?

I like the Cottage Hill Park course.

It was beautiful weather.

I was in pretty good shape.

But none of those things mattered. Only one thing mattered.

Dad was in the stands at the finish line. It was the only race he ever watched me run … the only one he ever saw me finish.

“Home” was there waiting for me and, let me tell you when you have a sure grasp in your mind of what Home is, it motivates you.

No matter the miles or the hills, YOU FINISH.


Back to my metaphorical run back home.

When you make the change … when you turn towards home … something happens that is a game-changer.

It’s not a lie, as some would tell you. It is a bedrock truth.

When you turn and take that first step back, your Father is there with you. You realize that your first step back towards home was HIS idea, not yours … He was just waiting for you to make that decision.

You hear His voice again and feel His presence with you. It is all the encouragement you need.

He is not going to magically teleport you home.

No, you’ve got ground to cover!

But He supernaturally gives you the strength to run the course back home.

The beauty of repentance is that others get the privilege of watching you run it out.

Sometimes, they even join you!

That is the heart of worship and it has absolutely nothing to do with music.

It has to do with direction and inclination.

It is the journey of a lifetime and worship is all the steps leading back home.

“I’ll bring you more than a song … more than a song…” Matt Redman’s lyrics said.

Will you?


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