I used to be a runner. There was a time when it was nothing for me to go on a 10 mile run. I looked forward to it, actually. I ran Cross-Country and Track in High School, went to state in both all four years. I held (and might still have) the Augusta High School Cross-Country Record for teh 5k at 16:04. I lived and breathed running.
Now I’m just lucky to live and breath. Since those High School days I’ve run off and on. In 2006 I ran a half marathon, and still plan to run a full marathon this year or next, but I cannot call myself a runner. I jog, plod, pound my way around town, usually after sunset so as not to frighten small children at the sight of an overweight ogre chasing them down the street.
Over the past few years I’ve blamed my job, my children, or just about anything else under the sun for my lack of discipline in running. The truth is, I’m just lazy. I’d rather sit in the recliner with a soda and chips and watch the boob-toob whlie I slowly and methodically atrophy. I’ve had scares that have prompted some feeble attempts at running again; my dad’s health issues before his death, the expensive suit pants that no longer fit, the jabbing comments from my 10 year old daughter.
I’m trying again. I still want to run a marathon. There is a flat marathon this spring called “Marathon to Marathon” (creative, I know), which starts in Storm Lake, Iowa, and finishes in, wait for it, Marathon, IA. There is also the Sioux City Marathon this fall – not flat. I have also got plans to go hiking this summer in the Colorado Rockies with some friends, and running will help me lose the weight and build the lung strength for that trek. Then, I am making plans now to attend my 20 year High School reunion this fall – I want to at least be recognizable.
So I’m running again. Not that the deck isn’t stacked against me. I chose to start running in January, when the temperature never gets above 10 degrees, and there’s at least a foot of snow on the ground, and it will stay there until March. I’ve got a treadmill, but I hate it. Nevermind the shock that each foot stroke causes the body, give me a dirt road any day. It’s the fact that I run for 30 minutes and go nowhere. I can run on the roads for hours with no ipod and be perfectly fine – I’ve got plenty to think about. But the treadmill is simply mind-numbing monotony – too much of it will drive you insane.
I realize though, that the treadmill is a valuable training tool, the only option available in this climate. I can build a good foundation so that when the thaw does come, I will be ready to hit the streets.
I guess that’s what this journey of discipleship is sometimes like, too. There are times when God’s Spirit keeps teaching the same lesson to our hearts again and again. We think we’ve got it down, but we keep covering the same old gound. We want to move on to bigger and better things, but we feel stuck in a rut, like a gerbil on the wheel, going round and round.
We think that such Spiritual monotony is fruitless and defective, but could it be that God is strenghtening us for the real adventure that is just around the corner?
Friends, sometimes the training is nothing like the race. Sometimes its the simple act of showing up and saying, “Here am I, Lord,” is what we have to learn, so that we’re there when God says, “Whom shall I send.” You may feel that your prayers are going nowhere, that the invitations and pleadings to your friends are falling on deaf ears, that all those chapters you’ve read from God’s word are just a jumble; but remember, “the one who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).
Keep praying, keep sharing, keep on keeping on, and “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).