Running the Race….physically and spiritually

There’s no hiding that I am a Christian, God is first and foremost in my life, and I make no apologies for that. Next comes my family and after that comes time for things I enjoy, including my running. I’m in a Bible study right now and we’re studying 2 Timothy. In 2 Timothy Paul writes to Timothy about being prepared, as an athlete is prepared, and that an athlete does not “win” unless he competes according to the rules.

When we got to this point in the study we were talking about what attributes make up an athlete. Our teacher said that when she was doing this lesson, she thought of me, and my new endeavor in running and training as an athlete. A what?!? I thought, I’m not an athlete….and then the whole class started throwing out attributes of an athlete on the board and talking about what makes up an athlete.

Here’s a short list of words that were thrown out there: dedicated, passionate, driven, committed, determined, disciplined, patient, persistent, self-controlled, etc., etc. I sat there and listened and thought about the short running journey I have embarked on, coming up on a year in late November. I was almost in tears, because while I’ve never considered myself an athlete, I identified with every one of those words in terms of my running and in terms of my life.

For me running has not come easy. I love it, don’t get me wrong, but it takes all I have at each new endeavor. I’m not a natural born athlete, anyone who knows me can attest to that. I’m probably safer wrapped in bubble wrap, then let loose on a concrete road in shorts, graceful isn’t an attribute I’ve ever claimed, if you know what I mean. But once I began running, something in me desired to keep going, even with it being tough, more often than not. I’ve realized so much about myself and about life when I’m running.

Physically running is so very much like running the race of life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been out there running in a race and everything in my mind, my body, my whole being wants to just give up. It’s hard, my legs ache, my lungs burn, I’m tired.

This happened to me yesterday at my race. From the first step I seemed to have a terrible ache in my right side, nothing made it go away and throughout the race it would get worse (to the point of stopping and curling over in pain) and then gradually better, but it never went away. I had 13.1 miles ahead of me and by mile 3 I was hurting so much I had no idea how I could possibly finish the race. At one point I ran right past my car, I could see it and for a split second I thought, I’ll just jump in my car and leave, no one will care. (I didn’t.) and I pressed on….step by step, mile by mile, walking for 10-20 seconds when the pain got too great, until it would let up, then running again. It hurt the whole time. I kept saying, just keep going, you’ll see the next mile marker, just focus on the mile you are in. I prayed, I almost cried, I just kept running….always looking for the next mile marker.

When we hit mile 8, we turned around to run back into downtown Houston and the sun was blinding (forgot the sunglasses.) I couldn’t see anything in front of me. I couldn’t look up, I had to stare at the ground in front my feet and just focus on the steps, I missed mile markers 9, 10, and 11 because the sun was so strong. When we got to mile 12 all I could think was…..so soon that finish line will be in sight, no matter how much it hurts, its so close, just one foot in front of the other, I couldn’t think of anything else. Then it came, I could hear the music and the cheers before I could see the finish chute. I didn’t have anyone waiting at the end to say good job, but at that point it didn’t matter, I ran to finish and finish strong. I did…and I am happy to say I am SO glad that race is over (and my side is still sore today- no idea what’s with that.) 😦

Running that (not so great) race yesterday made me think of life in general as I was running, of those things that come at us in the midst of the “race” of life and hurt so bad we just want to stop. We can’t see the finish line, we can’t see the next mile marker, we are blinded and in the dark. I have been there before, if we are honest with ourselves, we all have. This life is hard, without the hope in Jesus I don’t know how people make it.

If you are in a relationship with Christ, we are told that there will be trials and tribulations, but that we will always be given a way out. But that doesn’t mean we don’t suffer. Our society today teaches that suffering is bad, and that if you are suffering its because you have done something wrong. I’m not going to pretend that I like suffering, who would say that, but I do know that some of my most amazing growth as a person and as child of God has come in times of suffering. I am who I am because I have walked in the darkness. Because I have been there, acquainted with the darkness, I intimately know the light. I stay acquainted with my suffering because of the lessons it has taught me, it has became ingrained in the fibers of who I am. While my human nature is to avoid hurting, I know that suffering produces a result in me that, while its painful to get there, its a gift to me in the end. Just like running that race that hurts to get through, when you cross the finish line, you know you have done well and you take with you the lessons of that run, that trial, and grow from them.

We each have our own race (good and bad ones,) our own darkness and our own struggles. I guess I write all this to say that if you are there, in the dark, running that hard race and that pain keeps hitting you in the side, hang on….the next mile marker is just ahead, and each leads you to the finish line. When you get there, it will be worth it…you may not see it right away, but you will be better, stronger and more capable the next time.

PS- on a side not, I read today that it takes your body 2 weeks to reap the physical benefits of a hard workout. Isn’t that just life….we get to that finish line, but the results take time to come back. Its not instantaneous like we wish…all good things come with waiting. 🙂

Hang in there wherever you are today. If you are in the dark…keep one foot in front of the other, you’ll get there. And if that isn’t you today, join hands with someone who is…no one needs to walk the hard stuff alone, God created us to be in community, to help one another as we struggle, no one is exempt.

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