Life, Faith & Running
". . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
(Hebrews 12:1, NIV)
There have been seasons in my life where I commit to simply logging as many miles as I can fit in each week. I am still running. I am still training. But I am not giving it my all. Most often because I am happy enough to get miles in and keep myself sane. In addition, when I am between races it is actually quite healthy for my body to have an easy-does-it mind set. In a lot of ways these days are guided by me listening to and obeying the aches and pains of my muscles.
However, when I am in that mode for too long I begin to feel in a rut. I start to lose my perspective and motivation to persist. I find myself vacillating between wanting to just take a few weeks off and and wanting to get going on a training plan that will push me out of what has become comfortable. The comfort of the resting season actually begins to feel uncomfortable.
Somehow the comfort of the the easy, carefree running weeks leaves me weak in mind. My muscles also begin to fatigue too. I tell myself, I am still doing more running than the average person and should be happy about that. But somehow that doesn’t satisfy. And I begin to realize what I am craving is not more rest, but rather, a push, some pressure, and a bigger goal. A goal that will push me beyond just maintaining to one that will make me stronger.
I wonder if it isn’t all that different for the health and vitality of our soul. There are seasons of our faith and challenging times often provoked by our circumstances that put us on our knees in prayer, break up the fibers of our hearts, and require from us more than we think we can handle in our own strength. When we are in this kind of season in our lives, it can feel like we are on an intense training plan that is only fatiguing us, not making us stronger. But in these times, if we allow ourselves to be fully dependent on God and his work in our lives, we will likely find that once the intensity goes down and we come to restoration or reconciliation, our hearts, souls and strength were made stronger.
Most likely, we will then enter into a season of comfort and rest, and we welcome it with open arms. We get to look around and see peace and life running smoothly and relationships working out well. Each morning is new, but not full of a need to drop before the Lord in prayer asking for help or sustenance. These types of days can roll by quickly because the pressure or stress of previous circumstances has been alleviated in some way. And this is good. This brings praise, hope, joy and comfort.
But, for me, sometimes several weeks or months into my resting season, I turn around and realize I have begun to wander from needing God every day. I have settled into the “easy” life of depending on myself. My Bible has not been in my hands as much, my hands have not been folded in prayer or lifted in praise as much and I catch my mind is setting into the temporary. My comfort begins to feel uncomfortable.
How did I get here, I wonder?
Somehow in the resting and easy-training days I became weak in spirit. Weak in discipline. Weak in need of my Savior. And not because I shouldn’t have rested, but because somehow in the process my perspective shifted and I lost sight of the eternal race course I desire to run all the days of my life. With my guard down, I slowly let earthly comfort become the norm. Then came the realization that perhaps I should consider what it would look like to commit to a training plan for my soul. To be honest, praying for some kind of intensity to come challenge my faith isn’t usually my first course of action when I see my spiritual weaknesses coming to the surface. But as I consider how often my running-life is a metaphor for my spiritual life, I knew God was trying to say something to me.
As I set this spiritual wrestling match of resting and growing next to the physical training plans I create in my effort to keep running strong and healthy, I can see how these two areas of my life are so similar: the sacred and the secular both able to show me that to everything there is a season, and time and a purpose under heaven. I can not be healthy and strong by only running easy miles. Some months, I need to commit to a training plan. Same goes for my soul’s ability to be strong and healthy: I can’t live in the resting season all my days or else I will grow weak. I need to expect some less than desirable circumstances and days that seem too hard because such times can become my training plan to grow deeper faith, stronger hope, and clarity of purpose. And even in the comfortable days, I can stay committed to a training plan if I choose persistence and endurance. But it takes effort and intentionality.
What season do you find yourself in right now? Are you under a high-intensity training plan that perhaps has you wondering if you can really do it? Are you in a season of maintaining or resting, soaking up some precious time of relief and comfort?
How are is your soul doing in this season? Are you growing stronger, weaker, or just maintaining?
There is a time and a season for everything. It can be challenging to know when to welcome in a new season, especially if that requires coming out of resting. Yet, we grow stronger physically and spiritually when we allow ourselves to be put through some intense training. We also remain strong for a time when we enter a season of rest following a hard race. Consequently, I believe that the greatest lesson I can learn from all of this is that I need to be consistently asking God to make me aware of the season He needs me to be in right now. And that if I am not in the season that is best for me, that he would make me so uncomfortable in it, that I would be propelled to move from rest to training or from racing to rest. That I wouldn’t expect or be happy with living life always in the fast lane or always in the comfort of maintaining, but that I would see purpose and grace in moving from season to season.
It seems I have been able to figure out when my body is trying to tell me when to rest and when to amp up my training plan when it comes to running. But have I learned how to listen to my soul in the same way?
Am I willing to put aside my desire for comfort and commit to training? Am I willing to let God show me the season I am to be in right now, and then begin a plan that moves me in that direction?
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: