Friday, May 3, 2013

Running The Distance

I love to compare my relationship with the Lord to my running habits.  In this stage of life, its kind of appropriate.  This week I started running again and it brought to mind several parallels between the two.  

Like my faith, I start running because I feel its a good way to get healthy.  The lethargic feeling, the extra padding around my waist, the tighter fitting clothes don't make me feel all that healthy and well.  I want to live and feel better so running is one of the biggest ways I try that. The same goes with the way I live out my faith.  When I am not actively seeking God's heart, I feel lethargic, directionless, and slow when it comes to who I see God as and even more so how i think God sees me. I stop trying. I stop feeling the urge to pursue a deeper relationship with him.  When I start doing the things that bring me back into a true and deep sense of the grace and peace of God I feel more healthy and together.

I don't know about you but I have found a dizzying pattern with my desire to run.  I feel the urge to start running again so I plan a day to run.  I am excited about the opportunity and often will guard against anything getting in the way of that run.  But then the day of the run hits and the motivation starts to fade.  The closer I get to the run, the more I don't want to do it.  I will do almost anything to get out of it without it being too obvious.  But in those occasions where I power through the urge to stay at home, I find the run exhilarating and definitely not as challenging as I thought it would be.  So I plan another run and am excited about the next run and the run after that.... but then right before that run, i not longer have a passion or desire to do anything requiring energy.  The same often goes with my spiritual life.  I see the need to grow deeper and I feel the pull of the spirit to learn more, go deeper, love more. So i make a plan. I pray for opportunities.  But without fail, when the opportunities arise I find myself preferring to watch TV, surf the web, or anything really other than that.  Like with running, when i power through the urge to be lazy, i am exited about what i see and what i learn.  Yet the next opportunity comes along and I find myself desiring to do the lesser thing.  I am not saying resting is bad but the absence of pursuit of the Father is not a good thing and I choose most things over Him many many times.

When running, I often listen to my body in regards to how long to run, how fast to run and even where to run.  When I am running, I often experience muscle and joint aches.  Most of the time, I am mentally aware enough to run through those aches.  I know my body enough, typically, to know a good pain and a bad pain and when to give in or slow down.  Often times the energy or the breathing is what gets me and many many times I am unaware that I have slowed down, even stopped running.  The initial burn I am aware of. If its a good day I can train myself to think of other things or focus on other areas. But sometimes I will go from a steady run to a walk without even realizing I've done it.  I think the same happens in my relationship with the Lord.  I am moving along, sometimes aware of his presence, sometimes not.  I feel confident, like i can take on the world.  But then I start to lose energy or I feel the pressure of outside sources, or worse, sin (past or present) creeps in and my stamina begins to waver.  If I am lucky, I notice it and begin praying for ways to move beyond the insecurity, the fear, and even the pride. But most of the time, I don't realize how bad things have gotten in my own life that i have completely given up.  Not in a conscious way but in a subconscious way. I no longer am seeking or even desiring a daily life with Him.  I am doing everything in my own energy and my own power which leaves me feeling deflated and exhausted.

Living in a place with lots of hills, I have accepted that in all of my runs I will face at least one hill if not 2 or 3. Some are super steep and others are mid-sized hills.  As you are running, you can typically see the hill coming.  I have this subconscious routine in my head where I decide as I approach the hill what my goal is.  For the smaller to mid sized hills, I typically tell myself to make it to the top before stopping. The speed at which I run the hill is negotiable but running the hill is not.  For the steeper/longer hills, I will give myself permission to stop at a certain point.  The reality though of these hills is that I rarely live up to the plan.  For the smaller/mid-sized hills I get about 2/3rds up and I am toast. I think I can't make it and like above, before i know it I stop mid run.  The issue is that, nothing is broken and rarely do I think I will pass out or die so I know its all a mental game.  This last week, i found myself stopping on a hill and as soon as I was conscious of the stop I said "NO, you have so little distance to go, get your butt up this hill." so I ran it.  I have to have conversations with myself. Sometimes Jillian Michaels is in my ear screaming at me.  These "hills" in my spiritual and emotional life are the hard times.  I am running along enjoying life and then a problem arrises. Sometimes I can see it coming but many times I can't.  If I am lucky enough to see it coming, I make a plan. I think of ways to guard my heart against the attacks I will face.  Ways to punch the doubts and fears directly on so that they don't stop me in my tracks.  Unfortunately though, life isn't always so subtle and the punches come out of nowhere, leaving me feeling winded, frustrated and isolated.  I often stop there in mid crisis and shut down spiritually. I give in to the emotions I am experiencing and let them define me.   Its never really a conscious thing. I don't realize i have gone there until its already there.  

Like in running, there are times when you think you can't go any further. You're tired, in pain, and just feel alone.  But something causes you to keep going. Something gives you motivation to run the last bit with more energy than you had the entire run, at least in long distances they do.  The Spirit gives you the extra nudge to jump back into the routine of knowing and seeking the Lord.  You pick up the bible and read with fervor or more simply, you pray for the spirit to give you those things; desire, hope, perseverance.  You run the race for which you started and feel the excitement of getting to your destination.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 
1 Corinthians 9:24

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverancethe race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. 
Hebrews 12:1-3

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