Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Oh, off-season! You get me every time. I anxiously await your arrival when I am pushing toward the finish line. But then you come and I am so disappointed in our relationship because sometimes I just don’t get you! But slowly, ever so slowly, God is teaching me how to deal with you, embrace you and reconsider my understanding of how to approach our times together.
Many aspects of our life do well when set to rhythms. Think of the practices, that when set to a rhythm, help keep the train of your life moving forward at a steady pace: laundry, exercise, eating, studying, sleeping, working, playing, resting. To set the rhythm takes discipline, dedication and an ability to overcome the frequent desire to let how you feel or a present task override the intended rhythm for the hour.
Sometimes it is hard to stick to rhythms because it is hard to believe that they matter. It can be hard to see through the moment to the reality that the steadiness of the rhythm for this day or hour has the power to prepare you to engage effectively in tasks of the coming month, week, day or hour. If you are like me, sometimes the call of the moment begs you to put your feet up or to move those less than urgent tasks to tomorrow’s to-do list. And hours or days later, you regret that you let the mood of the moment control your actions, rather than sticking to the rhythms that you know are necessary and good for peace of mind and productively.
Several weeks ago, I came across this paragraph that not only reminded me of the necessary inclusions of rhythms in day-to-day life, but also the seasons that we walk through as we run the races marked out for us. Like the author, I too grew up on the farm and have found that over and over again, as I mature in years, the lessons of farm life are applicable to my life, faith and running.
“As a little girl, I was privileged to experiences the rhythms of farm life. In the spring, we picked up rocks an prepared the field for sowing. In the summer, we sprayed and fertilized crops to kills bugs and weeds that threatened their growth. The days of fall were long and busy as we harvested crops, be we always left the ground to rest for winter in preparation for spring planting. Each season had a purpose that called for different tasks and tools. If a plow were used in the summer, it would destroy growing plants. If fertilizer were sprayed in winter, there would be no seeds to benefit” (Erlacher, Daniel Generation: Godly Leadership in and UnGodly Culture).
When the sun comes up in a few minutes, I will be able to see the blanket of snow that covers the yard outside our living room window. It is only November, but winter has already arrived in all her blustery and white splendor. Winter, the season in which the farmer who works the land is given no other option but to rest. Most still have work to do--feeding animals, making plans for the spring or repairing broken machinery--but the pace of life slows as the weather disallows the ground to be actively productive. The ground needs rest. The farmer needs rest. The body needs rest.
But just what does rest look like? Does it mean casting off all activity? Does it mean hibernating like a bear in a cave? Does it mean turning on the TV and drinking coffee and eating donuts all day?
If the farmer took any of the above approaches to her rest, spring would come and she would not be ready for it. She would be lethargic, weak and without resources or strategy for moving into the planting season. If her rest lacked rhythm and planning for the coming season, she most likely would miss out on the next season--the season that puts all the other seasons into motion.
As runners, we too need rhythms. Our bodies need a rhythm when we are on a training plan to balance out our fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles. We need speedwork, hills, and long runs in order to fully prepare for race day. Also tucked into a good plan are recovery, or rest, days. The rhythm of the training plan makes us strong, prevents injury, and also keeps us steadily building our mileage toward the goal of running our next best race. For me, I know that if I don’t follow the plan, race day will not be fun, so it is the training plan that most often gets me out the door when my motivation is lack-luster.
And when the winter season comes and we runners enter the sometimes dreaded “off-season” we do so because, much like the farmer, the weather pushes us indoors or inhibits the amount of time our skin can be exposed to the elements prior to frostbite! In the off-season, it can be increasingly challenging to get even the shortest workout in because it requires so much mental effort just to get out the door or endure gerbil-like running on a treadmill.
No doubt about it, our bodies need a rest from long miles and intense training plans. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would disagree with the need for an off-season. Yet, sometimes it is the off-season rhythms that are hardest to keep. Lack of motivation to keep moving during a season of rest can even sound like an oxymoron. In this way, rest is full of irony because when done well actually requires a lot of work, motivation and discipline.
To rest doesn’t mean to stop moving but to intentionally slow down or switch the rhythm so that one’s body can be fully strong and ready for the next season of intensity that is bound to come knocking. Resting isn’t complete stillness--if your heart were to completely rest it would be dead. Blood keeps pumping, the beat just slows down because that is what the body needs in order for the heart to stay healthy and not overworked.
Often times what we experience in the physical teaches us how to also approach the spiritual. Farming shows us that seasons are necessary for the farmer and the land. The off-season of a runner reveals that even though the body needs a new rhythm of less intensity, it will not perform well if mileage comes to a standstill. Runners will also tell you that the off-season is astonishingly challenging mentally because when there is no race on the calendar, motivation sometimes wanders away. And they may also let you know that when the workout for the day is supposed to only be three or five miles, it is strangely hard to see the worth in layering up and hitting the road. The shorter the distance the easier to dismiss the necessity of getting it done today--instead, putting it off until tomorrow.
Maybe like me, you have also seen how these rhythms of the farmer, or the off-season of the runner, are like the season of faith and life we walk through. The rest presents unexpected hurdles because it demands more than stillness to move from fall to winter to spring. Comfort begs us to sit on the couch, scroll for a few more minutes, or sleep just a little bit longer. Our misunderstandings of rest sometimes leads us toward stepping completely out of rhythm. And seemingly all of the sudden our rest season turns into a frustrating, perhaps even comical, yo-yo way of life.
When life’s rhythm feels more like a yo-yo than the steady push of a river, it can be hard to actually rest. Dizziness takes over and exhaustion sets in, which is all super complexing. If you are like me you may find yourself saying things to yourself like, “For goodness sakes, we aren’t planting, or harvesting, or running 40 miles a week. How can I possibly be tired? This is the off-season! I should feel rested. I should feel full of energy. What is MY problem?”
Can you relate?
My faith journey also follows these rhythms of the farmer and the runner. There are months and weeks when I am called to use my gifts, my knowledge and my time to a level that costs me energy, sleep and free time--metaphorical marathons if you will!
And then there comes times for rest. Sometimes intentional, most often not. How do we walk through the off-season well in light of God's design and plan for our life?
Come back for Part 2 of this post, to explore this question with me.
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: