I am a runner – well, actually, I am more of a jogger – but I still love it and feel like I am just as taken with it as any awesome marathon runner I know. I may not be as dedicated, and I am certainly not as adept at it as most, but it is definitely one of the things I enjoy most in my life, and I am very committed to doing it.
I can’t say it enough: I LOVE to jog.
Jogging is the time that I get to have to myself, just to allow my thoughts to dump out of my brain, achieve a semblance of clarity in my mind life, to purge the toxins from my body, and it also serves as time well-spent as I get into “the zone” and think about my Savior, my family, my loved ones, and my friends. Running is just plain good for you. And it is such an absolute blessing in my life. It is not my God, but it is a gift that the Lord has given to me, and I find great joy in doing it. Thank you, Jesus.
Like any runner knows, there are times that we have to push onward in order to finish the race. This is when we must really gut it out, dig deep down within for every last ounce of strength that we may possess, and push our bodies harder than we ever thought possible. Many times this comes down to mind over matter and sheer will and determination. But without a strong foundation, without having been dedicated to a solid training plan, this alone will probably not be sufficient to get us to the finish line.
You really can’t fake your way out of this one. If you haven’t done the work, you probably won’t achieve the result that you want. It ALL matters. The plan. The commitment to that plan. Time on your feet. Avoidance of injury. Getting enough rest. Following a good eating plan to enhance your performance. Listening to your body. Listening to that still, small, but powerful inner voice. And going out and “just doing it.” You can take this to a high level (run all the time and train for full-on marathons) or you can keep it lower key, but you will still have to be well-rounded like this in order to remain consistent and make running a long-term part of your life.
And I got to thinking about this today; shouldn’t our relationship with our Savior be this way as well? It should be one in which we are fully committed – where we don’t call upon Him only when we need Him, or look upon Him as just some genie in a bottle that we can or should be able to summon whenever it happens to suit us. It needs to be a two-way relationship, and we need to do our part to live out that relationship daily for it to be so.
For me, that means training properly. That means spending the time with Him in prayer that is necessary to help me remain with Him at all times. It also means being in His word (the Bible, His love letter to us). It means fellowship with other Christians (His church). It means service to others. It means taking time to celebrate His joy and the gift of salvation that He freely offers and that I get to bask in every single day. And, not least of all, it means sharing Him with others.
When we don’t remain committed to that day in and day out relationship time with our Savior, we risk injury and stagnation. We risk hitting that spiritual wall. God reminds us to seek Him first, and to make sure that everything else we do simply enhances our relationship with Him and brings Him glory. He promises to increase our joy on this earth and in the earthly pleasures He wants for us to enjoy if we put Him first in our lives.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33
Sometimes we just hit a wall in our life here on earth. It happens. You have probably heard the tales that most marathon runners have shared about such grisly occasions. When you hit this wall in the world of running, you either find the way to push through and persevere, or you have to scale back and walk a while. It all just depends. It depends on what your body AND what your mind can do.
But there are also times in the life of a runner in which they must scale back a bit. This can happen due to injury, sure. But it can also be a part of the master plan to take performance to the next level. For example, to increase my endurance, speed, or time on my feet, I occasionally do speed work, or sprints. One or two such sessions a week can go a long way to making me able to run faster on my longer runs, or just be able to run for a longer period of time. And although I have yet to complete a full marathon since I have been consistently running again in these last couple of years, I do want to someday. (Or at least get VERY good at completing some half marathons on a pretty regular basis…ha ha).
As I was running (uh-hem…I mean jogging) again today, I was thinking about how very many things in my life lately have come down to being willing to listen to God’s voice inside of my heart about whether to sprint forward with all my might, or step back for a moment and regain my strength and composure. And God has definitely shown me a pattern He has held true to in my life of late – one in which I take what may look like a “backward” step, but that inevitably gives me what I need to spring forward into fulfilling His will in my life in a deeper and more true way.
Taking that step back not only gives me time to soak in God’s energy and listen to His voice before I move forward again, but it often helps me to gain new perspective about just what it means to step up in life. So many decisions I have made lately, with God’s divine and merciful help, have been ones that the world might tell me were steps back – things that look by all accounts, as if I am moving in a backward motion, down the ladder, hitting rewind and staying put. But in reality, God has just been preparing me to spring forward in this earthly life according to His will for me. Although these things (trials) can be difficult and somewhat stressful at times, this has been nothing but a blessing in the “long run”. And they have all been lessons in humility for sure.
The lowlier we become, the more humble we can be, and the more like Jesus we are. Lately, all too often, if the world hates it, I know I may be on the right running track. If it looks backward to the world, it is forward with Christ. I am gaining a whole new understanding of what it truly means to live for God and not for this world. And I can’t be grateful enough that the Lord continues to open my eyes in this area. It will be a life-long process, I am sure. But a cool adventure it shall be!
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? Matthew 16:26
So, as I finished my jog today I felt satisfied. I felt fulfilled. I felt good about the knowledge that stepping back from life can help us to spring forward with Christ. Yet there are many things still in my life currently that I haven’t achieved resolution about yet – and that’s okay. I am listening for God’s direction in my life. I am keeping my eyes wide open. And I am spending time nurturing my relationship with Him. I am sure that some of these miniature races I am running or participating in will be ones in which I hit the wall. For some, He may help me to realize I need to take a step back and muster up the strength I need (HIS strength, not MINE) to spring forward. And there will be others in which it is decided that I am to drop out of the race completely and reevaluate His plan for me or re-vamp my training program completely. While still others will be ones in which He asks me to push through the wall with the last ounce of strength that I have. And that strength will need to come from Him, not me. I know He will provide it.
So today, I must remind myself: There are some races I will get to finish with flying colors. And there are some I just won’t be able to finish at all. Some will be learning lessons in which I stand corrected and have to scale back and ponder just what caused me to need to throw in the towel. Was it a good thing, or was it due to lack of discipline and commitment on my part? I won’t know until I get there. But I do trust that God will tell me what I need to know, as long as I look to Him for the answers. And that, is what completing the race is really all about.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1
Yes, I will complete this race in life. And I will do it with the help that only my Savior can provide. He alone gives us the strength and endurance to step back, while moving forward into His light and love.