Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
This is one post in the "Run for Your Life" series of posts designed to encourage those of you who already run, and inspire those of you who are thinking about picking it up. (Links to other posts in the series below.) 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. I would love it if we could use this space as a place to have a conversation about the questions posted at the bottom. So, please lend me your thoughts in the comment section below. It will spur me on, I just know it.
Individual commitment to a group effort -- that’s what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work. ~Vince Lombardi
Vince Lombardi. You’d be hard-pressed to find a football fan or resident of the midwest who hasn’t at least heard of Vince Lombardi's reputation. In his biography is written, “Because of his success, he became a national symbol of single-minded determination to win” (biography.com). This coaching legend understood, lived-out and demanded of his players an individual effort toward a common goal. It wasn’t that the individual didn’t matter or that individual should be removed from a team, but rather, that all individuals use what they have, with a single-minded determination--to attain a group goal. Lack of individuality wasn’t the end goal. Nor was success. But the coming together to achieve something greater than any one individual could achieve on his own.
For some of us runners, it is hard to find those relationships and running buddies who help us to achieve more because of having one another. Running can be a loner sport. And some people like it that way. We are all built differently, and need to recharge in different ways. I respect and appreciate that. In fact, this idea that we can all approach running differently and with different aims is yet another reason I love the sport.
I have found that over the years, there have been season were I couldn’t manage to fit friends into running due to schedule or lack of the ability to plan 48 hours in advance. (ALL the children born from my womb refused bottles! This meant years of basing running times on feed schedules and naps. Which changed daily! You mamas out there know what language I am speaking, right?) And then there have been seasons in which a majority of my miles are accomplished in tandem with friends or my husband.
In our first years of our marriage, my husband and I spent many a Saturday and weekday afternoon running. In 2007, I had this crazy idea to train for and run a marathon. Just because. . . why not? His response, after a couple weeks of watching me train, If this is important to her, I want to join her in it. I can let her goals spur me on toward setting goals for myself. Okay, I am in because I love her and I could benefit from the challenge .
For the record, five weeks before race day I started bawling my eyes out on a run because I literally couldn't run myself up a hill I had run up hundreds of times. It was almost like an out of body experience. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Thanks to the council of a friend, I took a pregnancy test a couple days later. . .and tada! It was positive. No marathon for me. But one for the hubbs! He rocked it. I cheered and maybe cried a little that my “non-runner” husband was running a marathon without his “runner” wife, me!
Life post-Loween "party of two" made running together a challenge. Instead of being together on our runs, it was more like passing the button. Losing time with my most dependable running mate made it hard to stay motivated to get out the door because I was often going alone. In addition, we began to lose out on quality talking time, away from distractions and interruptions. Was running separating us or keeping us together?
Still, through those years we remained steady in our fitness aims, and helped each other make space and time to keep in shape. And even though we were never training for the same race, we were consistent in allowing one another hours each week to spend running (or in my husband’s case, swimming, biking and lifting weights).
I don’t think we thought through why we did what we did at the time, other than we both knew we were happier and healthier when we kept our bodies in shape. In retrospect, however, I can see that we were using our individual commitments to work toward a common effort -- a healthy marriage. Placing running and fitness as a value in our marriage has reaped many benefits neither of us foresaw. But isn’t that the great thing about passions and talents, you enjoy them so much you don’t even realize how much good they are doing you until you start looking back on all that they have provided for you?
Marriage is hard, don’t get me wrong. Two people with distinctly unique hearts, wills and minds trying to live on-point, simultaneously and yet mutually benefiting the other, that is seemingly outside our normal mode of operations. So, we cling to the promise that with Christ, all things are possible. And in Him, we can do all things. So, we press on toward the goal of unity. Trying our best to attain that which we are called to in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).
What we have found, via our perseverance in marriage and through our individual commitments in life and running is that we are successful in our goals when we see that we are on the same team. When we stop and consider the physical and emotional needs of the other as necessary to making our marriage work.
For example, in a moment when it would be easier to say, I need you to make dinner, not go out for a run. We instead recognize the need of the other to get out and blow off some stress. And happily say, Go! I’ve got this. Enjoy your run. Years of practice at this has helped us both to realize that sometimes a tense day just needs a good run and mama comes back ready to love again--recharged and her head back on straight.
This happens because we are a team. We are individuals for sure. But our efforts are meant to help the team win. And winning means being teammates who help one another put forth individual efforts in areas each is gifted in, designed for and called to. We are winning when we don’t just make space for the other to flourish, compete and run his or her race, but when we cheer the other on, take on extra responsibilities (with joy) to allow the other to sharpen his or her gifts, and then celebrate and rejoice over a met goal or accomplishment.
For us, winning in marriage and on the race course comes when we live, think and speak as if we are teammates, on the same team, running after a common goal. A teammate knows that her reactions, words and choices affect the outcome of the game for her team. A teammate knows that the success of the team lies within the unity of the players. Living as a team means believing that your individual efforts and your partner's individual efforts are of equal value on the earth and for the Kingdom. In addition, as a teammate it is your job to help your teammate fulfill his or her role. Because when they succeed, you succeed, and the team wins.
That little surprise baby of 2007 is turning eleven in just a few months. Wow! I can’t believe I have been doing this mom-runner identity-thing for more than a decade. But we might be out of stroller stage (with youngest) by next summer. Not sure how I feel about that! The upside to aging is that your kids get older too! Which has allowed for my husband and I to be able to train for more races in the last couple years than we had prior to kids. (I do NOT know what we did with our time pre-kids! Seriously!) And we are entering a phase of team-life where we can get out on a 35-45 minute run together. In addition, our oldest two kiddos have started joining us on their bikes. Team Loween is growing bigger and stronger, and faster--I am excited for the miles that lie ahead!
Yet, as we close out on this season of baby diapers and sleep-deprivation, I am thankful for what we have learned from it; That even in the midst of maihem, survival, and running our miles as individuals, rather than together, we have learned to be team-thinkers. We have seen that our team is most successful when we see one another as a teammate that we need in order to win at life and marriage. We don’t need to be running the same miles or the same races, because we are working at the same life goals--kingdom impact, loving one another, staying active an d adventurous and keeping the children alive and with hearts soft for Jesus!
Here is how this thinking changes things. Instead of being in competition with each other, we honor and value the other’s successes and gifts. Instead of being jealous of the run “he got to get in” we rejoice over the fact that one of us is healthy for the day. Instead of believing that we need to measure up to one another, we see ourselves as equally valuable to the end goals. No comparisons necessary. All of which leads to a freedom to encourage, cheer-on, and down-right love the gifts and successes God has given the other.
Team-life for us is represented to the world on race days when you can find one of us hauling around four kids, broken Pop-tarts, spilled juice boxes, and a stroller with a flat-tire--handmade signs and cowbells to boot! But team-life on the normal days is found in how we think about each other, what words we choose to say or withhold, and the always “yes” answer to the other when asked, can I go on a run today? Because we know if the question has been asked, there is a need in the other’s soul, mind or body for some time away, putting in a physical effort in order to come back and effectively contribute to the team.
I believe this team-life way of thinking can be applied to all our relationships--children, siblings, parents, friends, and fellow runners. Because it boils down to letting go of comparison and silent competitions with the people you love most. And instead, seeing every person in your life as a teammate--one who is fulfilling a necessary position, one that in someway is essential to winning either on this side or the other side of heaven. Team-think more. Compete less. Honor and celebrate more. Compare less. Believe we are all on the same team, vying for the same outcome--a crown and the words, “well done my good and faithful servant.” And we all have a job to do: make sure all our teammates make it to the end of the race and the post party with us. We can only do this if we choose to live all of life like Vince Lombardi taught his men to play football, with an individual commitment to a group effort and a single-minded determination to win by spurring the other on while also moving forward together.
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: