Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Running is a day-to-day adventure that sometimes comes easily and other times requires more strength just to get out the door than it does to run three miles. I have been a distance runner for over 20 years and I still have days where I talk myself out of getting out the door. Most days, I don’t let the discouraging voice win, but it takes some serious fight to do so. Sometimes the worst thing for me can sound so good when I lose sight of why I run, for whom I run, and the history of my life that shows me that running has, at times, been the means to my rescuing.
But on the days my good-conscience wins and I make it out on the road, alone with my thoughts and the rhythm of my soles on the pavement, I am again reminded that I run for more than a finish line. I run for more than an escape. I run because to not do so would leave me far away from the person I was destined to be: a woman set on this earth with a purpose and some little gifts to spread love, courage and hope to others. However, it is really hard to find that perspective when I let my head get cluttered with discouragement and excuses. Yet, those are the days I most need to run. Because those are the days I know I have lost sight of the goals and values I want to earnestly seek until the day I go away way beyond the finish line to those golden streets I am told are waiting for me. (I wonder what kind of shoes will be need for such terrain.)
As I consider the struggles I face when fighting to keep on keepin on with my running-life, I have begun to see correlations in my daily-life. Even though the goals I have for the the way I want my daily life to go are much less concrete than running a certain number of miles in a certain amount of time, they are just as able to guide me (somewhat like a never-ending training plan). A while back my husband and I sat down and outlined our family mission statement and values. We defined what behaviors would demonstrate those values and discussed how each aligned with a portion of the Bible. In essence, we got started on a training-plan for our lives and our family. Amongst the list of values you will find living by faith and the truth of Bible, health and well-being, adventure, and being a good neighbor.
Can I just be super honest? It is really hard to want to live-out those values every day. First of all, some mornings I just plain forget that I have committed to living them out. Secondly, that voice of discouragement that likes to tempt me out of a good run is the same one who pleas with me to forego sticking to making life purpose and values. He likes to tell me that I can just start all that tomorrow because, “Hey, you deserve a break. Look how hard you worked yesterday. Don’t you think you should just be happy with that and wait until tomorrow to do that act of service for your neighbor. I mean really, who is going to notice anyway?”
Sound familiar. What we do with our thoughts when they are in this place of discouragement can literally define our lives. Because once you listen one day, it will be that much easier to listen the next. Then, all of the sudden, seemingly, days have passed us by and we have become weak in living the daily life we intended to live.
Thankfully, and I mean thankfully with the most emphasis possible, there is this awesome God I I know and love who reaches down into my discouraging thoughts and days and extends me grace and power to overcome the thoughts that entangle my mind and attempt to persuade me to veer away from my training plan. This truth and Christ’s redemptive power are truly the only answer I have for how I am able to choose [most days] to stick to both my running plan and my walking-the-life-that-Christ-has-for-me plan.
Some months I am training for a race, but a majority of the time that is not the case. Most days I am just running because I know it is good for me and my soul. I am not so sure the same can be said of our daily lives. I think all (not just some) of the moments are training in using giftings and opportunities to live out what we believe through our actions. We can of course choose not to as well. Graciously, God loves us just the same either way. But if I have learned anything from my running-self, it is that I can live with myself a whole lot more peacefully when I stay committed to my training plan and execute my race knowing I ran every possible mile I could to get myself prepared for race day.
Why? Because I have beat-down that voice of discouragement day-after-day in training, and I have built up the strength to beat it down again on race day. I can stand at the start line thinking, Ain’t nothing going to stop me from that finish line once I start. And ain’t nobody going to keep me from getting all the way home.
I want to approach my day-to-day struggles and temptations toward defeat in the same way--shutting down the voice of discouragement or doubt that would lead me to believe skipping out on training for eternity is pointless and unnecessary. But it is going to take some training and repetition. Every time I make a choice and follow through with actions that demonstrate I am living out my beliefs, I grow in ways that aren’t measurable this side of heaven. Yet, my soul can feel the muscles of my heart and mind growing quicker and stronger.
When I am training for a race, I often find it helpful to keep in mind that each training run is getting me closer to the finish line. And every really hard mile is helping me actualize my pace goals. In my daily life as a wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend and teacher I also have to remind myself that each disappointment, challenge and disruption to my plan is also necessary for getting me to my eternal home knowing that I poured my whole life out for the love of God and the good of his people. The finish line just beyond here is the place I want to keep focused on, but I don’t want to get there wimpy and untrained. I want to get there strong and having been faithful and courageous, having run my race to the end. Not just to the finish line, but all the way home.
Much of what I have shared above became clearer after I listened to Jill Briscoe at IF:Gathering 2016 and IF:Lead 2017. Her quote above is a reminder I need to keep in the forefront of my mind in order to make it to live fully present here, but also fully aware of where I am going.
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: