I have begun training for the Chicago Supersprint Triathlon as well as the Chicago Half Marathon. It takes a lot of time and energy and I don't want that time lost to simply working out. So today on my run, I didn't wear any headphones and I asked God, "How can I run well?". I chuckled to myself and told Him the double entendre was not lost on me, after all, I'm familiar with the many passages of scripture that equate our time here on earth with a race (Heb 12:1, 1 Cor 9:24, Gal 2:2, Gal 5:7, and more).
God poured insight down on me. It was as if He'd just been waiting for me to ask. So without further ado: How To Run Well, According to God.
1.Keep your eyes up. I am clumsy. This is not negative self-talk, this is fact. Ask anyone who knows me. Because of my clumsiness I have a habit of looking at the ground when I walk, run, hike, etc. But when my eyes are on the ground at my feet, I become very short-sighted. The goal seems out of reach because it is out of sight. My pace slows. I miss the scenery around me. Today it was the river on one side and a row of houses with summer blooms in their landscaping on the other.
In my Christian race the same thing happens. It is easy to get short-sighted. Bogged down in daily decision making and church politics. In national and world politics. Weighed down by the grind of the week. Instead, I need to remember that each step takes me closer to a goal. When my eyes are up, I don't find myself slogging through as often. Non-Kingdom issues don't become the biggest deal in my life.
2. Run all the way to the goal. My GPS told me I had reached the 2-mile mark before I reached the spot that I expected to be the 2-mile mark. I had my eyes on that spot as my turn-around and I considered turning around when the GPS told me I'd reached my goal instead of going all the way to the pre-set goal. God whispered to me to continue to the pre-set, visual turnaround. Why? Because I would need a cool-down at the end of this run and by running just a little further before turning around, it would build in a little extra distance for me to cool down.
When God has set you on a path and given you a goal, never quit just because someone else--even an expert--has told you you've reached your goal. Continue until you've reached the place God set out for you.
3. Don't be too prideful to walk. Sometimes, I need to walk. I'm a beginner runner. I suspect I have bad form. Today, especially, my muscles didn't feel good and I was running first thing in the morning, which was a new experience for me and which I have now learned I need to prep/fuel for a little differently. So I needed to walk. There is no benefit to running till I collapse or throw up on a 4-mile training run. I needed to lay aside my pride and walk.
Sometimes, God leads us into deep water. I might feel "in over my head" in ministry or study or the goal God has set before me. It's OK to walk sometimes. Don't stop, don't give up, but take the step back, evaluate the situation, see what needs to be done to prevent exhaustion and burn-out. Sometimes that's more time alone with God. Sometimes it's more time with my family. Sometimes it's changing up a schedule or rearranging priorities. A short walk doesn't make you less of a runner. It makes you a runner able to finish the race.
4. But don't be too fearful to run. Running is hard. Walking is easy. I don't find myself panting, my legs don't cramp, I'm not usually pouring sweat, and I can still get where I'm going. I enjoy a walk. I enjoy easy. But there comes a point where a walk does not benefit my endurance, does not build my fitness, does not ready me for the race. I could walk all my training miles, but it would not prepare me to run the half marathon in September. I had to step out of easy, but comfort behind me, lay aside fear of pain or difficulty or struggle and run.
It's easy to coast along as a Christian. Easy to accept Jesus and then live a good life afterwards. But does that grow you? Does that prepare you for battle? No. It gets you from point A to point B and that is all. Don't be afraid to jump in with both feet. Don't be afraid to read that book, go on that trip, take that job, pray for strength, or patience, or ask God what He wants you to do now. Don't be afraid--it's in the Bible. Lots of times. Set aside fear or apathy, or both. Whatever is holding you back.
5. Find a Friend to Run With. Ugh. But I'm so slow. I'm embarrassed by how slow I am! No one wants to run with me because it won't be a challenge to them. I can't keep up with others. They'd be waiting for me for like an hour at the finish. I like the quiet time while running. I'd rather do it alone. But a running friend helps keep you motivated. She can teach you things about form and training methods you don't already know. This is someone who agrees to go with you on the run.
I felt the kick in the pants on this one. I may need a running mentor, but I am capable of being the mentor for someone else's Christian race. And you never really grow out of needing a buddy on our Christian race, either. I've got women who come alongside me and my husband who leads me. I need to get get on the mentoring wagon.
6. Stop Writing the Summary Before the Finish. I kept writing this blog post in my head as each of these lessons came to me. But God said, slow your roll. Wait for the end to write down your experience. Things change along the way. I may have a different outcome planned than you do.
With CIY Mix and NYR coming up and a summer of study and a new semester coming quickly, it's easy to try and anticipate what will happen. To try and make a plan that caters to the eventuality you expect. But God says to have faith in Him and follow His leading. HE knows what will happen and how it will come to pass. I need to seek Him in goal-setting and be ready for Him to do very different things than I might expect.
7.There's a time to push through and a time to rest. I found myself needing to slow down and walk in the first half of my run. But in that last mile, it was time to push through and finish strong. The way my body felt was similar in both halves of the run, but the occasion was different.
Sometimes it's time to take a step back and figure out what changes to make in ministry and in life. Other times, I've gotta buckle down and push through. I sometimes have a hard time sorting through the differences between how I feel and what is reality. So I seek God to find out if it's a God-given urge to make a change or if it's an enemy-given urge.
8. Make adjustments, but don't quit. I did a lot of adjusting today. Compression leggings up, down, up, down. Running, walking. Short strides, long strides. Swing arms more, swing arms less. Push up my sunglasses. Sometimes I have to make adjustments to in order to get the run done. But I don't quit. I didn't say, "I don't like how my compression leggings feel today, so I'm just going to call Zach to come get me."
Some in the Christian race. Make adjustments as needed. If it's not working, change it. If there's a better way, go for it. But don't quit. If I feel like my relationship with God is stagnant or weak, it's not because God doesn't exist, it's because I need to make an adjustment. Pray more, read more, read something different, change when I do my quiet time. Change an attitude or habit or activity in my life. But never quit. I can never say, "My relationship with God feels weird today, so I'm just going to stop doing what I've been doing and maybe I'll be "into it" again in a few days/weeks/months/years". That would not lead me to the finish line. That's the equivalent of sitting down in the middle of the race course and just waiting to "feel like" running again. Many races have time limits...that's a good way to miss the cutoff and when you finally reach where the finish line was, it's gone.
9. Stop caring what you look like. Oh, man. I tell my voice students all the time to breathe deeply. That your ribs expand and your belly pooches and you feel it all the way down in your low, low abs when you take a full breath. You can't worry about looking skinny while you sing. Same with running. If I'm worried about whether my belly or thighs are jiggling or if my stomach pooches out when I breathe, I'm probably not running well.
I've cared for a long time about how my Christian walk looks. And to some extent, this is important (Matt. 18:6; 1 Cor. 10:23) . But when it affects my obedience to God, it is detrimental. I need not care who Christians see me befriending. I need not care if I look like a fanatic to non-Christians. This is a hard hurdle to clear and I'm still working on it.
10. Shut judgement out. As I was cooling down, I felt glad to have finished my run. I felt maybe a little pride. And then, a van turned the corner in front of me and the lady in the passenger's seat was eating a McDonald's breakfast burrito.
And I thought, "My run was hard, but at least I got out and did it. At least I'm not eating McDonald's".
And then God said, "Shut the judgement down".
And I thought, "That's right. Maybe she only eats it on Saturday. Or she just got bad news. Or is recovering from surgery or something. There could be a good reason for her eating McDonald's."
And God said, "SHUT THE JUDGEMENT DOWN."
You see, someone having a justifiable reason for their actions doesn't change my judgement to non-judgement. The fact that "everyone has a struggle you don't know about" doesn't make me less judgmental, it just reminds me to shut up about the things I think. It's OK to see sin in someone's life and call it what it is. But if that person hasn't accepted Jesus as their Savior, there is something much more important I need to be addressing with that person than their particular sin that felt like an affront to me.
And calling something sin when I don't know that it is a sin leads to really scary territory. It's easy to make the leap: breakfast burrito=gluttony=consumerism=not caring for the body God gave you=sin. But that leap was more about making myself feel superior to someone else than worry for that person's soul. Oh pride, it is deep in me. But I know God can, and will uproot it...even if it's hard and takes time.
So there's my 10 lessons from a 4 mile run. I hope it's been insightful or helpful or at least not boring!