by | Jun 1, 1999 | God's Hands, Helping, Love

While running the trails in the mountains of Montana today, I ran into someone… it was God.

The weather is starting to turn now. Fall is in the air, the leaves are hitting the ground, and the snow will soon be here. I decided I’d better mow the yard one more time. We have a rather large yard, both front and back, so by the time it’s all done, I’m a little tired. I really didn’t want to go running, but for some reason, I had to…. Didn’t want to, but had to. So, I got a bottle of water, a fresh towel, my headphones, and my Mp3 player. I always run with music… it takes my mind of my labored breathing. Today, I loaded some Christian rock into the player. Fast, upbeat music to keep me going.

The trail I run starts right out with a hill. I get to the crest of that first hill and stop… not because I’m tired, but because the crest overlooks my small town of Helena. It’s a really pretty site. I’m thankful to have a place like this to run in. No more smog, traffic, or the concrete valleys of the L.A. area where I came from. I took in the sights for a moment, and continued my run.

The trail goes pretty far back into the mountains, testing me with switchbacks in the first half of the run. I soon come out into the beautiful meadow that’s filled with purple and yellow wild flowers during the spring. Not so today, as it’s now the Fall season. But nevertheless, it is beautiful and serene. At the top of the meadow I pause for a drink of water and a brief chat with the Creator of all this beauty. It may only be 58 degrees, but I’m pretty heated up from those switchbacks.

On the backside of the trail, the running gets a little easier. I almost never see anyone on the trail, but for some reason, a question came into my head, “What will you say to someone if you cross paths?” I don’t know why I asked that, but I did. Then, came an answer. It wasn’t like I was answering myself, though. In fact, it was as if the answer was “planted” in my mind. Oh well, here comes another hill. I pushed the headphones into my ears a little deeper so I could really get the great sound of one of my favorite Rich Mullins songs.

On the downside of that hill I saw two dogs. They were sniffing the trail as if they were sent ahead by someone as scouts. Understand, I’m not afraid of dogs. In fact, we’ve got two dogs ourselves, but when you’re running in the woods and you encounter dogs, you never really know what to expect. As I got closer to them, they both moved off the trail, giving me just enough room to pass by. Running past them, I kept a close eye. They just stood there like statues, one in the pointing position… like a hunting dog. Yikes!

Whew! Made it. Around the next turn, I saw a woman up ahead, hiking the trail. Apparently, the scouts belonged to her. Not wanting to lose my rhythm, I ran past her as she stepped aside. “Hi,” I said, and she said something back. I couldn’t hear her because Rich Mullins was cranking in my ears. I’m certain she could hear me, though. You know how when someone has headphones on listening to rock music, and they talk to you? It’s like they almost scream because the music is so loud in their head… that was probably me.

Anyway, I had a trail to run, so I kept on going. That’s when it hit me. Maybe she was the person I was suppose to give that message to… you know, the message that was planted in my mind just a few minutes before. I don’t know. Maybe she wasn’t. Besides, I’m not that kind of guy… to just give a message to someone I don’t even know. I’m not that kind of Christian. Those kinds of Christians always make me nervous. They seem so…. I don’t know… holy-roller, ya know? Anyway, she’s gone, and I’m still in my rhythm.

I finally got to the end of the trail where it comes out onto Davis Gulch, a dirt road that leads back into town. This isn’t my favorite part of the run because it’s a dirt road. I like running the trails through the pine trees and grassy meadows. But still, it’s very peaceful here. At least about half way back to town there’s another trail to run for a about mile.

As I’m running, the thought of that message is still bothering me. All I could think was if I was suppose to give that woman a message that I knew was straight from… well, not from me, anyway. So I told God that if that was the person, and if he still wants me to give her the message, then please put her across my path again.

I knew I was pretty safe in asking that because the trail she was hiking leads back to where I started my run, which is not even close to Davis Gulch. Even so, I couldn’t help but glance up the hill to my left once in awhile, just to see if I could spot her on the trail. Nah. Didn’t see her. By now, a great song from Jars of Clay was cranking in my ears, and I was totally into the tune. And then, out of the corner of my eye, there she was, still hiking the trail above. I kept running.

As I traveled the dirt road, I kept watching her. Hmmm, I never knew part of the trail came down toward Davis Gulch.

Look at that! She’s hiking her way right down to the road. I stopped running, and drank some water. Okay, God, I can’t deny this thing any more. I’ll do it, but please help me.

Swallowing a gulp, I continued to run. First, the two dogs crossed the road, then she crossed… right onto the trail I always take on the way back home. Boy, God doesn’t miss a trick, does he? I caught up to her, turned off my music player, unplugged my headphones, and said, “Excuse me. Can I tell you a story?” She stopped and turned around with a combined look of nervousness and confusion. I think my question caused the confusion. I mean, how often do you encounter someone while hiking, who asks if they can tell you a story?

“This is probably going to sound weird to you,” I said, “It’s pretty weird to me.” I walked up to her and told her, “As I was running through the woods, I got this compelling message to tell someone on the trail that no matter what you’re worried about today, don’t worry…. God’s going to handle it. I saw you on the trail earlier and didn’t tell you. I just kept running.”

She didn’t run away screaming or turn her dogs on me, so I continued, “I never do this kind of thing.” And I wasn’t kidding. This is so not like me.

Her eyes locked onto mine. I continued, “Once I got to the road it kept bothering me. So, I said, ‘God, if she’s the person I’m suppose to give this message to, then please make our paths cross again.’ And here you are.”

She looked deep into my eyes, paused thoughtfully, and said, “Thank you so much. I needed to hear that.”

I plugged the headphones back into my ears, and said, “That’s it.” Then I turned on my music player, and kept running.

As I ran down the trail, all I could think of was how blessed I was to be part of God’s personal work. Truthfully, I’m not so sure that this message was exclusively for that woman… certainly the blessing of it was for both of us.

Today was a good day…. Thank you, Lord.

Todd Garrison Helena, MT, October 6, 2001