Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
Life without music, can you even imagine that? I can’t. Music brings to life celebrations. Music adds romance to a candlelight dinner. Music gets the wiggles out of kids on snowed-in days. Music provides a rhythm for feet to follow on a long run. Music has the power to lift a soul and mind out of a place of despair.
If you are like me, you don’t have much in the area of musical gifting, but music has been instrumental in your life. Perhaps it helps to allow memories of times gone by to flood back with elated emotions and a smile of pleasant remembrance. Perchance, did music help you memorize Bible verses, learn Spanish or place the bones in the body? Maybe music is what you find going through you head when you first rise in the morning or fall into slumber at night. All of these describe the ways music has had an influence on my life.
Along with these, my faith has been heavily rooted in music. I grew up in a church filled with contemporary worship and on the high-end of the charismatic of the spectrum. From a very young age I realized that church worship music filled me up and set my mind on knowing truth, believing in eternity, and giving me peace. Now, over 30 years later, I can easily profess that worship music is an anchor to my faith. It goes with me wherever I go. It is in my head when I wake. And often what I turn to if I am having a hard time falling to sleep.
As a consequence, worship music is my go to for my running playlists. Over the years running has become for me a sanctuary experience. What I mean by this is that when I am out on a run alone, I seize the opportunity to reflect on my life, ask God what he desires to show me, and also praise him. Letting my mind wander with the lyrics of the music and imagine the things being sung as a reality, I find myself in a sacred place as I mile after mile run, permitting my legs to run toward a physical goal while my soul and mind run toward the eternal one. This is perhaps the greatest reason I return again and again to marathon training--an excuse to spend extra miles literally worshipping the Creator who created me with the ability to run for Him and toward Him.
As you can then imagine, what’s on my playlist is immensely important to me. Because I know for a fact it affects my run, my thoughts, my praise and determines the lyrics that will be running through my mind when I am falling to sleep and when I awake the next morning.
When I was very young there was a popular Christian kid’s sing-along-stories character named, Psalty the Singing SongBook. My siblings and I listened to all of their cassette tapes all the time. One song, Input Output, is one that I have never forgotten. The lyrics go something like this, Input, output, what goes in is what comes out. Your mind is a computer whose input output daily you must use. What goes in is what comes out. Daily you must choose.
I have seen over and over again how this simple children’s song defines in such a simple way the truth of the Bible and the function input data has on our minds the output data has on our thoughts and words. Namely, that our growth, transformation and our nearness to God starts in our minds (Romans 12:2). Because of this, because I know how easily songs get stuck in my head, and because I want my head to always be syncing with my access to a renewed mind in Christ, I am calculated when creating my running playlists.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~2 Corinthians 10:4-5
For example, there was a season in my life when I just didn’t know what God had for me. It seemed like I was stuck and that I didn’t have a purpose in my places. Upon reflection and prayer, I labeled that time, “The Waiting Season.” Then I found worship/contemporary Christian songs that spoke to this theme of waiting. During nearly all my runs for the following months I played these songs and let wash over me the truths of what God can do with us in the waiting seasons of our lives. I let my soul rest in knowing that I could still be moving forward in the waiting. That I could trust him in the waiting. That I was in the right place in the waiting. And that in the waiting I could anticipate the coming season, whatever that might be. But most of all that there is grace and purpose in the waiting.
My playlist and my running allowed me to meet with Jesus and find renewal of mind as I listened again and again to the same playlist during this season. I found a different lyric would catch my attention from one week to the next. And I would know to pause my thoughts and meditate on the words in the following hours and days. Because of this approach to my running routine in this season I experienced some unexpected bonuses: I didn’t hang up my running shoes just because I wasn’t sure what was next. I didn’t quite my physical training just because my mind and soul were unsettled in where I was a mom and wife. Instead, my sanctuary of praise on the roads near my home became the highest motivational factor in lacing up most days.
So, what's on your playlist?
Have you noticed that the lyrics that pass through your mind when you are running stroll through later? Have you considered that your playlist could be a tool for creating a sanctuary of worship while you are out pounding out your miles on pavement?
As runners, I believe most of us realize that we keep doing this crazy sport because it renews and invigorates our muscles, provides necessary endorphins for positive thinking and keeps our blood healthy. But do we also realize that it provides an amazing opportunity for renewing our minds, strengthening our souls, and settling our hearts (the metaphorical one) on believing we can be near and know God? That we can commune with him while our feet are moving?
I believe my playlist has a large impact on the spiritual benefits of running. Especially when I have premeditated a playlist designed to speak to my soul concerning the season of life I am walking in.
Nevertheless, I do not think every playlist needs to be of this type. These are just the playlists that I listen to most often and that have had the most impact on my race of faith. For example, I have some “dance party” music on my “Marathon Day” playlists. These are there to intentionally drive my mind to see my kids dancing in our kitchen. Which then makes me smile and at mile 22, I need something to smile about in order to relax and persevere.
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: