Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
This is part of the, Run For Your Life, series of posts written to encourage those of you who already run, and inspire those of you who are thinking about picking it up. But even if running is nowhere in your past, present or future, I pray something about the message or the reflection questions will relate to your life. Links to other posts in this series are on the sidebar (or at the bottom of this page, if viewing on your phone).
Today I ran a half-marathon in the heat of humidity that is only known to Minnesotans from June to August. Over the last seven years, I have run this same course four or five times and even though my memory is failing at the ripe old age of 37, I believe it would be accurate to say that I have never once stood at the start line of this race thinking, “What a great race temp! This is going to be a PR (Personal Record) day.
Yet, I keep coming back.
Because, in theory, the course really is set up for a PR--rolling hills on the way out, flat, shade and trail on the way back. On paper, this race is deceptive and inviting to the PR-seeker. And because of my own insanity that says, “One of these years we are due for a cool race-day morning.” Thirdly, the start line is two miles from my house, I have NO EXCUSES that really validate letting the opportunity to take a morning run with 80 other runners go by.
But none of that rationalizing and motivating self-talk seems to boost my pace at mile 11 when I want to jump off the trail into the lake--or at least throw my watch in there to keep my eyes from seeing the decrease in speed. Instead, however, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other in full assurance that at some point I will make it to the finish line.
The beauty of running the same race course multiple times is that you are well aware of what is coming and can imagine the exact location of the finish line. The beast of running the same course multiple times is that you are well aware of what is coming and there are the faint memories of a previous year when ran faster, stronger, and further in front of the pack. Comparison of myself to myself is one of my greatest pitfalls. And the measure so incredibly concrete when the course is the same.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it is this internal battle of comparison of the former self to one’s current self that keeps a lot of runners off the course altogether. There are a lot of disappointments we walk through in life that impacts us, but it is self-disappointment that can often have the most power to take us down. And it is these disappointments that are the hardest to detect, process, walk-through and cast aside for the greater good of the rest of the journey.
Self-disappointment can eat us up without anyone else knowing we are being consumed. Self-disappointment can go unprocessed because it can so easily be masked by apathy--I am fine. It’s fine. I don’t need to prove anything to myself. I don’t have the time. I’ll leave the past in the past. Self-disappointment can be hard to walk-through because it can sometimes feel like we are taking ourselves too seriously. Or because it is just plain hard to admit amidst the goodness of all the other parts of our lives, that we are disappointed about something as “minor” as a race time or performance.
But can I tell you something I have been learning this year as I have had a few less-than-stellar, slower than I’d like to admit race times?
I am disappointed in myself. I am discouraged in my outcomes. I am struggling to believe that a better race is out there in the future. And also, I HATE injuries, stress and mental exhaustion. Like, really, can those just not be a part of this journey please! (I digress.)
But I keep going. I keep running. I keep trying to improve. I keep dreaming of the day I will get a PR (It has been 12 years since I have had a PR in a marathon.). Because disappointment doesn’t get to win. Disappointment can’t keep me from praising God for the legs he’s given me to run, the lungs he keeps putting air in for me to breath, and the resources he provides for me to be able to run races locally and across the country. Disappointment is trumped by the friendships I get to have with fellow runners who encourage and inspire me by continuing to show up to run together on cold, hot and rainy mornings.
Disappointment can be beaten down with this truth--I may have run my worst race today, but I still got stronger. I may have run my worst race today, but I am blessed to have gotten to run at all. I may have run my worst race today, but “bad” times don’t take me out of the race, they motivate me to get back up again and continue working toward my goals.
What if the best means to greater discipline and focus in training for a race or living a life of purpose is found in disappointing yourself?
What if the best path to finding peace in even the worst race is to admit that you are disappointed, but that disappointment doesn't get to shut you down?
Perhaps today’s race was a reminder to believe the word’s of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, “But he [God] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The verses above are a response to Paul’s plea to God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” so that he can be free of the weight of it. Disappointments can make you vulnerable and weak. A few “worst” races in a row and can make you feel like you have a “thorn in the flesh” holding back or pushing you down. But Paul’s words remind us that disappointment doesn’t get to win--even in our weakness of mind that can come from being disappointed, God’s grace and Christ’s strength give us the power to find delight in the midst of them--we get to be strong even when we are weak because we have the power that raised Christ from the dead living in us.
And what does the power do in us and for us?
It helps us defeat the pitfalls of comparison. It helps us lift our eyes up from the disappointment of disappointments and see that even the worst of races can lead us to a deeper strength, a more determined mindset, and increased confidence in a good God who says to us, “I work all things for the good of those who love me” (Romans 8:28).
All things. Every good and bad race. Every disappointment and accomplishment. Every setback and leap forward. Every strength and weakness. All things are in God’s sight and because of His amazing grace and sovereignty disappointments don’t get to win--He is making something good, beautiful and strong out of them. The new and good thing being created may not come instantly and it may not look like what we imagine it should.
But the strength found in a confident faith, hope and trust in His promises to be our strength when we are weak and to work all things for our good, is the kind of strength we need to persevere when we are at our worst and at our best. It is this strength alone that keeps me putting one foot in front of the other--day after day, disappointment after disappointment--running the races marked out for me with a belief that today just might be the best race yet. And even if it isn’t, there is delight in the ways God will use it to make something good.
How about you?
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:4-5 (ESV).
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: