My best friend, Katie, and I decided a few months ago to run a race; a half-marathon to be specific. Katie comes from a bloodline of athletes, and not only athletes: MEGA athletes. She’s one of the most athletic people I know, running cross-country and playing field hockey simultaneously throughout high school.
And me? Well…I ran the 4×100 meter relay in the 7th grade. Obviously, I’m having a difficult time.
Katie is SO good to me. She insists that she’s struggling just as much as I am (though I have a hard time believing her), and has allowed me to pretend to be a runner like her. This entire situation has been rather humorous for me to be a part of, and I’d like to take you through the process with me, only you’ll be less sweaty (lucky!) I’m about to embark on a multi-post “series” of sorts, jogging (see what I did there?) through my journey to the finish line and the things I’m learning about myself, running, and, most importantly, my faith.
*Disclaimer: I know it may be super cliché to make a connection between faith and running a race. I know it’s been done a gazillion times. But maybe, just maybe, something novel will come of this. That’s what I’m praying for. So hang with me, people.
First of all, training is hard. I’m a self-proclaimed “romantic”. Now, beach walks and candles are nice and all, but this isn’t what I mean. I mean romantic in that I’m a dreamer, a fluffer. I can give just about any situation a silver lining. Miriam-Webster defines me as:
a : marked by the imaginative or emotional appeal of what is heroic, adventurous, remote, mysterious, or idealized
b often capitalized : of, relating to, or having the characteristics of romanticism
c : of or relating to music of the 19th century characterized by an emphasis on subjective emotional qualities and freedom of form; also : of or relating to a composer of this music
That’s me, no matter what. Sometimes, it’s nice. Dreaming can make sub-par situations a little more bearable, as long as the dreamer can remain somewhat outside of said situation. However, if the dreamer is thrown head-first into a position where they have to face the situation head-on, a romantic like me may be in trouble.
That being said, I’ve always dreamed about running a marathon. Let me explain what this dream looked like. First of all, I’d train a little, running a few miles every day in an adorable matching running outfit, listening to sermons on my iPod shuffle (as to not only be exercising my body, but also my mind and spirit), breathing a tad harder than usual, breaking a slight sweat, but definitely not enough to sweat through that cute top. On race day, I would show up to the starting-line, my sporty number safety-pinned to that top, and I’d run at a 7 minute mile pace for 13.1 miles and finish and get a bottle of water and move on.
Here’s the thing: this dream couldn’t be further from the truth. For starters, I’m TERRIBLE at running. Katie and I established a running schedule that started with a 3-mile-a-day pace for 5 days a week. The first day of training, I invited the ever-so-handsome (and equally athletic) David Noble to go with me. During our 2.9 mile excursion, I had to stop twice to breathe. He was fine. I’m sure it isn’t necessary, but I’m going to reiterate this one more time: running is not my thing.
You know why I think it’s so hard? Because I’m so focused on the present. It’s hard to envision a glorious finish line when you’re tripping over your own feet, gasping for just one more molecule of oxygen to push you one step further (especially when you’re going uphill!). From the outside, it all seemed so nice, so cozy and rewarding. But the minute I stepped into this lifestyle (and yes, it is a lifestyle change), it all changed.
It was the same in my walk with Jesus. Now, I’ve known about Jesus for all of my life – at least all that I can remember. My parents (God bless them) are both incredible humans, both running hard after Jesus. By God’s grace, they raised my brother and I in the Church, and I wouldn’t trade my upbringing for the whole universe. But even all of that head knowledge didn’t push me to my knees in front of the cross. It took a lot of hardship, a lot of tears and stern “talkings-to”. In the 7th grade, I experienced the Lord’s power like never before, and got a glimpse of what living life as a Christian might be like…and the dream started. Finally, my senior year of high school, my heart sold out for the gospel, and into the Kingdom I ran. At that point, I felt like nothing could go wrong, I had Jesus, the King of the universe, on my side.
Don’t get me wrong. My mind wasn’t changed about God’s power. My belief in that has only grown. Romans 8:32. Read it. What did change was my idea of what it would take. It takes sweat. Perseverance has never been one of my strong-points, but it’s the key to crossing a finish line, am I wrong? Don’t even answer that. I know I’m not wrong.
Hebrews 3:12-14 speaks of “holding firm to the end”. The true test of this in running a half marathon is actually running the race; training hard no matter what, running hard no matter what, and finishing, no matter what. It’s the same for following Jesus. We, as Christians, fight a battle against sin everyday. We will continue fighting until the day of Christ Jesus and His glorious return. On that day, we will see victory (1 Corinthians 15:55-57, 1 John 5:3-5), but until then, we have to fight through it.
What does it take to fight? Hebrews 3:12 tells us that the saints that hold firm must be “exhorted by one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today'”. That’s a long time.
If it weren’t for Katie running this thing with me, I would have thrown in the towel a week ago (5 days after I started training). But I know that she’s in this alongside me. And because of that, I keep running, even though it sucks.
If it weren’t for a group of people I’m beyond blessed to call my closest friends, I have no idea how I would be able to follow Jesus. Granted, His grace is sufficient to get me through most anything, even alone. But He’s blessed me so richly in fellowship that it’s hard to imagine worship, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, etc. without all of them being a part of it. [All of you know who you are, so here’s an enormous cyber-hug. I love you all bigger than the sky.]
Saints, by the grace of God, we will persevere to the end. Not by our own strength, but by His perfect Will. Can I get an amen? But let me encourage you in this. Running on foot is hard. It’s really hard. Running spiritually is even harder. But here’s the light at the end of the tunnel: you’re not in this alone. We are granted with fellow believers all around the world, placing all of their hope, all of their energy, all of their excitement into the same thing we do every single day. Don’t take this for granted! This is such an incredible thing! Get involved with people who dig deep into your life. LET THEM IN! Be available. Laugh, cry, ask questions, give answers…SHARE (sounding familiar?).
Runners – I apologize for butchering your sport. I admire you more than you know.
Saints – Press on. You are loved beyond comprehension, forgiven to the same extent, and blessed like mad.
Also, read/listen to this. John Piper is the man.