Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Prayer. Praise. Reflection. Refreshing.
Heel, toe. Heel, toe. Heel, toe. One step in front of the other. Eyes forward, chin down, arms pumping. Blood flowing. Thoughts wandering. Prayers rising. I keep running. The rhythm keeps going; the thoughts keeping flooding. The prayers keep rising; the praises keep interrupting.
This is why I keep running.
This week Spring arrived on the calendar, and thankfully the temperatures rose to melt the snow and confirm that nature, though unpredictable from time-to-time, has a rhythm that brings dormant things back to life. Fresh air, rain and mud puddles come and remind us that at the end of the cold of winter, comes the refreshing hope of greenery, sun and running outdoors again!
This morning, because Spring finally arrived to melt away ice from the roads, I set out on the first long run I have completed alone and outside in several weeks. Along the way, I received a wonderful gift--memories and thoughts that reminded of why I run. And an admonition that I need to spend a few miles each week running alone.
One mile from home, after my breathing settled into a rhythm, my thoughts wandered to a friend who was hurting. I prayed for her. Then my thoughts wandered to another friend I worry about sometimes, and I prayed for her. As I continued, the Holy Spirit gently reminded me it had been a while since I prayed. It had been a while since I created margin in my days to let prayers for others come forth from my busied brain.
Running and reflection pair well. (And not just because of the alliteration created by setting the words alongside one another.) When I start my day out running, usually I am more prone to reflection the rest of the day. On this day, after seeing how running helps me pray more, reflection lead me to realize that my lack of alone time striking foot to pavement had also resulted in less time spent praising.
I don’t know about you, but when I spend most hours of my day staring at the walls of the mundane, I sometimes forget to look up to heaven in gratitude, or out the window to gaze at the wonder of creation and how it reflects a creator who also created me. My mind, soul, and strength need me to briefly leave the tasks of the day and find a quiet place that forces me to look up and out. For me, some days, I literally have to be running to find this.
Which is why I keep running--I get out of rhythm spiritually when I don’t. When I don’t run, I praise less, I pray less, and I reflect less because I fail to make space for quiet in the everyday. When I get out on a run, there is a rhythm lets my body settle into peace while my thoughts wander to prayers and praise. It is these moments that refresh my mind, soul, and body.
Most people don’t imagine refreshing coming in the form of sweating and hard work. I can’t claim to know why, but culturally the connotations associated with refreshing strum up images of waterfalls, beaches or spas.
Could we have it all backward?
Could we be mistaking pampering and vacations for refreshment?
Perhaps that is too extreme. Perhaps it isn’t backward or wrong to consider these things inaccurate approaches to refreshment. Because if a waterfall helps you take time to pray, praise or draw closer to understanding Christ or others, then your waterfall experience is no different than my time on the road. And if your walk on the beach is the way your mind wanders to prayer and praise, then that too can be your refreshing.
Yet, for some, (Maybe even you and you don’t know it yet.) getting our hearts pumping, our feet moving and our legs literally running brings the greatest kind of refreshing.
After all my years of running, I have come to believe the answer is this: It isn’t so much the running that is refreshing it is the prayer, praise, and freedom to let my thoughts wander that is my refreshing. Sure, I could possibly find another way to experience these, but God has built me to know his refreshing power in this way and I get to choose to embrace that, flourish in it, and love it! I get to delight and rejoice with the gift that I have been given to run.
Recently, I have received a bonus gift too--the ability to see why running is my refreshing! The gift of this revelation has increased my joy and perseverance in running. And amplified my adoration of God because it has again reminded me that I am seen by the one who created me just the way I am! And that he and loves watching me be the vessel he destined me to be!
Give yourself permission to take time each week to do that thing. And bring in accountability by sharing your plans to invest in this activity with a friend or spouse.
How we find refreshing from the Lord will always include lifting our eyes to him, but the vehicle that gets us there will most likely vary based on the things that bring you joy, the activities that pull you out of the day-to-day and the way you process (verbally or internally). For so many years I thought the only way to pray and praise was to sit quietly and read or journal (Which I still love, by the way!).
But as I have gotten older and need to escape from the house in order to be totally able to get my focus off of the laundry and dirty dishes, God has gently taught me that he will take my praise, prayers, and reflection any way he can get them. And that he wired me in just the right ways so that I could keep running, not away from the chaos, but into His presence and refreshing.
How can you keep creating spaces in your life that allow you to run toward the presence of Jesus and allow margin enough to hear his voice in the midst of wandering thoughts and impromptu prayers?
Ask God to show you. Then go and do what he reveals.
Her family and friends know her as, Jaci. She is the wife of a pastor, a mom of four, writing and communications education instructor, a visionary and an avid runner. As a firm believer in the power and effectiveness of the body of Christ united together to live out the Great Commission, she holds fast to this verse, "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:19). Of equal importance to her are these words, "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1).
Posts in the Run for Your Life, series: