“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 perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
“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)
Since night running is no longer an option around here, I had to schedule my run during the daytime. I have not been feeling up to getting up really early, so I chose to schedule my run for right after work while the kids are at their sport practices. Turns out a really great idea as far as timing goes. The weather, however, makes it more of a chore than I anticipated. Take yesterday, for instance.
Of course, yesterday is an extreme example. There was a lot of mitigating factors going on. Firstly, I skipped lunch. I did have breakfast, but it was two poptarts, which only count as empty calories with no significant nutritional benefit to account for. I had two 8 oz. cans of V8 around lunchtime, but nothing in the way of food. My water intake was next to nil, but I still naively thought running would be a breeze. I didn’t realize the weather was also against me.
It was a perfect day … for the beach. Ninety-four and sunny. No clouds. Not even a hint of one on the horizon. No chance of rain. I went running at midday heat. Of course, I took my faithful partner along … the dog. We walked a little first, so he could do his business beforehand. Mission complete, and we were off!
It seems like all there is around here is hills. But not the kind that do down. Just the up-side of them. I don’t know how that works out but it’s a pretty amazing trick nature has played on us here. I immediately noticed that running was much harder from my new start point, but I just pressed forward, urging my pained muscles to take step after step long after I wanted to quit … five minutes into my run. That’s not even half a mile.
We were on the biggest hill when the dog made his first stop. He just needed to sniff a powerful trail. It ticked me off. Stopping is the worst, because then I have to exert more of an effort to start running again, because inertia is no longer in play. I reflexively said to my dog through gritted teeth, “Oh my gosh, I hate you!”
Don’t judge me. I was hot, I had no energy and I was in the middle of a hill!
That was all the excuses I used to justify my heart attitude toward my dog. About a mile into our run, he began to really fatigue. I suddenly felt like, no longer was I just pushing myself to run, I was pulling my dog along for the ride. He tried to stop several times, but each time, I said something mean in a tone of voice that thoroughly intimidated him and he immediately picked up the pace again.
Two miles in, I needed to rest. The little bit of water I had brought was almost gone, my muscles were suffocating, I couldn’t breathe and we were facing yet another giant hill. I noticed a house that had a “for sale” sign in the yard and a vacancy notice on the door, so we stepped off the sidewalk into the shaded yard and rested ourselves on the front step of the house. My poor puppy sank down into the grass and panted. I squeezed the last few drops of water onto his tongue. Together, we rested for ten minutes before starting out on our last little bit.
We walked most of our last mile. I ran a few times, but at this point, the heat was really getting to me and my legs, chest and upper back were hurting from exertion. We made it back to our car much later than I anticipated, and melted into the seats while waiting for the air to cool down enough to shut the doors and hole up in our cold haven until the kids were done.
I attended my mind to the Holy Spirit while I was running because it’s what I do. No sense in letting my mind wander for an hour if I can just as easily be taught in that time. So I listened. Every complication on my run had a spiritual implication:
- I ate junk for breakfast – Sometimes, we fill up on “junk” and expect to run our race well. But junk has no value, and we find ourselves exerting so much more effort, relying on our natural selves because the junk has failed us. This junk comes from the things we watch, listen to and say throughout the course of a day.
- What little good I had (the V8) wasn’t enough – Sometimes, the little good we take in (Sunday sermons, daily devotionals, etc.) isn’t enough. We need more substantive nourishment (ie. Time in the Word of God) to run our race with endurance.
- No shade is a killer – “Under His wings you will find refuge.” We need to be sheltered sometimes. We need rest and retreat on our run. It’s refreshing! Don’t be afraid to duck out of the limelight and be sheltered at times. It’s often imperative to running a good race.
In addition to all of this, the Lord shared some great things about running with a partner. My life journey doesn’t include a husband yet, but it could one day and here’s what I gleaned from this run with my dog:
- Our partners get sidetracked – My dog chases rabbits, follows scents and sometimes, just stops to “feel out” a place. It’s a selfish run if I don’t let his needs be fulfilled too. His needs matter to him as much as mine matter to me.
- Our partners may need a break – Running is hard work. In this race called “life,” very few of us are taking it in stride. Our partners grow weary, restless, etc. just like we do. They may need to take a break and that has to be okay unless we plan on leaving them to forge ahead on our own.
- Sometimes I pulled him, sometimes he pulled me – the lovely thing about a partnership is the shared work. I have to admit, though. I loved being pulled much more than I loved pulling. I didn’t want to drag him along, but I didn’t mind being dragged myself. I didn’t mind the extra help, just the demand on my faculties to reciprocate it. This was not a good partnership.
- I was mean – When my dog struggled, I was not supportive. I was hateful. I told him I hated him. Called him names. Yanked his leash. Rolled my eyes. Huffed. I did not recognize his needs, or care about his desires. I had a goal and I mercilessly pursued the finish line, disregarding any trauma caused by my selfish disdain cast in his direction. Also not a good way to foster that relationship.
Yes, life is a race of sorts. In order to run well, we have to eat healthy stuff (reading the Bible, filling up on good media), take a break to rest in the shadow of the Almighty, and if God gives us a partner, be mindful of his or her needs. We should encourage those God puts in our lives and be willing to share their burdens as much as we desire them to share ours. This is how we run well.