One beautiful May day several years ago, as I headed down to our basement to work out, I found myself wishing that my exercise routine could be done outside instead. The flowers were blooming, the trees were budding and the temperature was a perfect 75 degrees. The obvious choice would be to go for a run, but I knew that running was not for me. My sister is a runner. My brother is a runner. Kelly is not a runner. I am the non-running sibling. I had tried before to run, and I couldn’t do it. I hated running. I was bad at running. I wasn’t built to run, and I had made my mind up about it.
However, that May, the idea of exercising outside persisted. I went online to look up walking programs, thinking that perhaps a fast walk on a pretty day would be a nice addition to my exercise repertoire. Long story short, I ran across an app for my iPhone called Couch to 5K that promised a very gradual progression from walker to runner. I took a chance, gave it a try and over the course of several months, I became a runner.
Currently it is 25 degrees outside, and I am only running on the elliptical in my basement. However, I read a scripture today that reminded me once again how much I have learned about my faith journey from running.
“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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” – Hebrews 12:1-2
As I read these familiar words, I was reminded of several truths that encourage me:
- Running is hard. Living as a follower of Jesus is sometimes difficult. Some days, in both cases, it is hard to get started. Some days, it feels like I am wasting my time. I get frustrated and weary and tired of it being hard because I like easy better. Hard is…well, hard, and I don’t particularly like hard.
- But, I can do hard things. I’ve done hard things before. I will do hard things again. I can do hard things with my body because God created a miraculous organism that thrives on good food, the right amount of rest and vigorous exercise. My body is a miracle. And I can do hard things in my walk with the Lord because I have the mind of Christ, the power of the Holy Spirit, the living word and a community of believers to cheer me on. In God, I am a new creation and a living, breathing miracle: body, mind and spirit.
- Running is a process. And running “the race set before us” is a process as well. It takes consistency, training, practice and perseverance. It doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes I have to start over and begin again. The definition of perseverance is “steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty and delay in achieving success.” We persevere; we keep trying even when we don’t see immediate results because we trust that the process is valuable.
- The process is valuable, and our hard work is worth it. It took me a long time to get to the point where I actually enjoy running. But now I know that the process—the training, the consistency, the sticking with it—all pays off. I feel better and stronger when I take the time to care for my body. I feel better and stronger when I take care of my spirit as well. The time I invest in the process yields results every single time. We are in charge of participating in the process; God is in charge of the results. We show up and do the work and leave the rest to God.
I ran a 5K race a couple of years after I started running. I didn’t break any records, but I finished in a respectable amount of time. I loved the process of participating side by side with the other runners and being encouraged across the finish line by the cheering spectators. It is that scene that I picture when I read the verse above. The accomplishment that morning may have seemed like it happened in a little over 30 minutes. In reality, it took much, much longer. It involved me getting over the idea that I would never be a runner. It required me listening to people who knew more about learning to run than I did and following their advice. It required me spending many months alternating between walking and running before I could finally run the whole way. It took me putting on my workout clothes and running shoes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday whether I felt like it or not. But ultimately, the process and perseverance paid off.
I know the same things to be true in my walk with the Lord. While God works the miracles of transformation in my life, I have to show up and do my part. I have to spend time in God’s word, and I have to spend time on my knees in prayer. I have to be vulnerable and share my journey with other believers and hear God’s voice through theirs. I have to cultivate a servant’s heart, and I have to practice gratitude purposefully and intentionally every day. This is the process that God uses to bring results. He has set this race before me. God alone knows the course, so I have to show up every day to find out where we are going.
Fix our eyes on Jesus and run our race. Ready? Go!
Portions of this post were originally published on www.kellyjohnsongracenotes.com.