Only a Tiny Pebble

by Bryan Ruby, Bethel Christian Writers

Do you find a passion . . . or does a passion find you? Something you love so much it calls you to lace up your Mizunos at 4:35 a.m. to hit the running path? 

I was in my happy place. AirPods pumping music loud enough to drive out that last cobweb as the first breath of eastern light touched our Tri-Cities horizon. 

Pat, pat, pat. My fourth-mile pace was spot-on as Chuck Girard’s classic, Evermore, just happened to flow through my buds. “I love the feeling when I get up in the morning, and my heart is beating fast with gladness. Oh what a feeling when I rise and think about You, You wash away all morning sadness.” You got to love it when things like that happen!

Working my way down the gentle bends on South Highlands with Holly Way almost in sight, it happened. A runner’s nightmare. A tiny pebble with my name on it took a bounce and dove right into my tightly laced shoes. 

With one mile to go, I had three options: 1. Deceive myself that there was no pebble. 2. Compromise. 3. Stop and remove it.

I made the call (option 2) to compromise—trying to keep my pace while hoping the pebble would gravitate toward the least uncomfortable spot. 

Sadly, my focus was no longer on the pristine morning, running my best, or the music that had been charging my spiritual batteries. But on a speck of rock.

Determined, I made it to the end. But not before God whispered a passage and the meaning behind this real time parable.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2a).

He calls each of us to run the race in such a way as to get, not just any prize, THE PRIZE—a crown that will last forever (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). But what do we do when sin takes a bounce our direction, and threatens to lame and bring defeat? Here are three options that will determine our place at the finish line.

Option 1—Deceive Ourselves: It would’ve been insane this morning for me to pretend the pebble wasn’t sliding around inside my shoe. Just as insane as lying to ourselves that we have no sin. “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). In other words, using playground trash-talk, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire.” 

The father of lies loves this option. In fact, he owns its patent. (John 8:44).

Option 2—Compromise: Let’s face it, each of us knows the specific sin that so easily trips us up. The one that dives into our run with Jesus. 

Galatians 5:19-21 calls them the acts of our sinful nature. So, we compromise and run with crippled faith, hoping the sin will move as far away from our conscience as possible. Sure, the finish line will come and grace will welcome us, but at what cost? Where was the inner joy, the rush of spiritual adrenaline, the anticipation of the daily race and victory set before us?

Muhammad Ali said, “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out. It’s the pebble in your shoe.”

Option 3—Stop and Remove It: It would’ve taken me all of twenty seconds to pull up a curb, slip off my shoe, and get rid of the pebble. Sure, my time would’ve been lengthened a tad for this one outing, but was it worth the discomfort and frustration to power through? Nope!

When we sin, and we all will, stop as soon as you feel the Holy Spirit’s conviction, ask forgiveness, and remove it.


The Father knows us so well. A favorite quote from a friend who borrowed it said as much. “When God put a calling on your life, He already factored in your stupidity.” I remember asking Mark that Friday morning why he was looking at me? 

There has to be moments when Jesus shakes His head our direction. Yet, He yearns to pour out His love and forgiveness over us. “I am the one, I sweep away your transgressions for my sake, and remember your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:25). He not only removes the pebble (sin), He casts it as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

So, let us run the race with a Divine passion, the Father’s passion that rescued and claimed us in the first place. And even when we stumble and fall because of sin—our knees and hands bloodied—we’ll be able to get right back on the path, our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfector of our faith.


I would like to dedicate this story to the great guys in my Men’s Small Group: Ryan, Tom, Ray, Tony, Mike, Casey, and John. We do life and run that race together we’ve been talking about bright and early every Friday.

And a special dedication to Mark Wasemiller, another brother in our group who recently broke the tape and finished his race strong. I have to wonder, my friend, is there a bit of crimson and gray in your Crown of Life?