I. Am. Not. An. Athlete.
Never have been.
I once begged my parents to sign me up for PonyTail softball, ’cause all my friends were playing. I was so excited to get that green mesh baseball cap. I thought I was going to be awesome.
Yeah, not so much. One inning, that’s all I lasted. They put me in the outfield. Which disappointed me. I wanted to be the pitcher. At least, I thought I wanted to be a pitcher. But all that changed the very first time someone hit the ball out towards my location.
I couldn’t catch the dang thing.
And once it stopped rolling (because the fence stopped it), I couldn’t throw the blasted thing. It maybe went 15 feet. Tops.
And thus ended any and all aspirations that I had for athletic endeavors.
Fast forward way more years than I care to admit, and I’m about to embark on my first (and possibly my last) half-marathon.
Oh, I am still not an athlete. I run like a hippopotamus. I can only sustain a run for about a mile, before I have to walk. I am slow–so slow–so very slow. And, I’m completely and utterly intimidated at the thought of lining up next Sunday morning, alongside all of those “athletes”. I don’t even like exercise. At all.
But here is what I’ve found to be truth, for me:
I need to do this.
Sure,there is the health aspect to exercise. We all know about the benefits of exercise. We read about it, we hear about it, we learn about it, we are lectured about it by our doctors. We know it is truth–our health depends on it. I have lived this truth over the past 3-4 years, as I’ve lost over 70 pounds and have seen drastic improvement in some chronic health issues, and have even been able to move from daily medication to no medication.
But we all know that.
And that’s not the reason why I need to do this.
No, there is something about the gift of being able to pound out the miles–step after step after step–that has become so very good for my soul, and my mind.
And, I think it may be this: It has become, for me, an analogy, or a picture, of my dependence upon my God.
I don’t like analogies really. And I despise metaphors. They bug me, even in books, in sermons, in lectures, and-gasp-even in scripture. But, even though literary-wise they drive me crazy, that doesn’t mean that there is not truth contained in many of the devices–and always in the devices when used in scripture.
Scripture. Is. Truth.
And, even though it bugs me to no end, that Hebrews 12:1-2 is often taken and placed on a t-shirt, or headband, or sweat-band to market to “Christian” runners, I can not deny the depth, and applicability, of these words:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Because, here’s the thing: these verses come right after a huge list of folks that had no choice but to rely on God–and who were faithful to do so: Noah. Abraham. Sarah. Isaac Jacob Joseph Moses. Rahab. (Oh, how I am grateful her name is in this list!)
Each of these people listed in Hebrews 11, we refer to as “faithful”. Scripture refers to them as “faithful”. And, they were. As we should be. But there is something also here that we sometimes miss I think.
They were ordinary people, who were utterly dependent upon God for survival. And, not only were they dependent upon Him for survival, they were dependent upon him for the very ability to be faithful to Him.
They, my friends, are not unlike us.
They are not unlike me.
And what I have found is this: When I am out walking–and as I begin to be able to run–I am somehow a bit more aware of my dependence upon God.
Yes, maybe it has to do with the fact that I often don’t know if I can take another step, and my lungs are gasping for air, and I know that if God doesn’t step in and help me, I’m going to keel over into the ditch by thee side of the road. There is that aspect, certainly.
But I also think it has more to do with this: When I am out “running my race”–putting in the miles before work, or in the evening, everything gets stripped away.
It’s me. And it’s God. And I become aware of my heartbeat, and aware of each breath, and aware of the miles behind me and the miles before me, and the my soul starts to settle and my mind starts to settle and the doubts that often plague me subside and the distractions fade and the sleepless nights do not matter and the fears do not seem so pressing and the darkness does not seem so close and I start to find that this becomes somewhat easier and clearer and closer and necessary:
And I realize that He is my only hope.
My next breath, my next step, my next mile, my next hour, my next day, my next decision, my next joy, my next need of endurance—it is all dependent upon Him, and Him alone.
I need God.
Noah, Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Rahab—they weren’t extraordinary super faithful God-followers that we could never hope to hold a candle to. They weren’t. They were sinful individuals, who recognized their need of the one true God. And they were only faithful, because they looked to the one who was the founder and perfecter of their faith.
And that’s what we must race to. We run the race, straight to Him. And only to Him.
And we run it with endurance, even when we want to quit. We run it with endurance, even when we are plagued with doubts and fears. And we run it with endurance, even when we do not sense is presence keenly.
And we run and we run and we run, and we do not stop running, until the race that has been set before us is completed, and we are beckoned home.
That’s the kind of runner I long to be.
So. I have no idea how Sunday will turn out. Honestly, I’ve not felt well all week; mentally or physically. I’ve not felt strong–mentally or physically–and I am uncertain whether my mind or my body will make it to the finish line Sunday, within the time limit.
But, regardless of the outcome, regardless of whether I “win” the race or “fall short” of the goal, I want to run it with my mind and soul focused on the only one who gives me the breath to breathe, and the faith to believe, and the salvation purchased for me on the cross, and the endurance to run straight to Him.