Posted by: deerharas | May 4, 2008

Whatever It Takes

Humor me, but I’ve got one more running post for you guys.

Actually, “training” is a better word. I’ve got one more training post for y’all.

I’ve had a week without running to rest, recuperate, and reflect on the marathon and the five months of training leading up to it. It’s been a nice break, but I must say that it felt good to put my running shoes back on and get a few miles in yesterday. I’ve even started thinking about my next big race … perhaps a half marathon this fall in Chicago? I have realized that I do best when I have a set goal with a clear plan of how to accomplish it. Next race day? September 14th. Training starts? June 23rd.

Last semester, long before Jamie volunteered to train and run the marathon with me, we were engaged in another sort of training together. We met weekly for the purpose of spiritual encouragement and accountability. We both had the desire to memorize scripture contextually and were already working through Philippians when marathon training started. In keeping with the whole idea of “training” we decided to set spiritual as well as physical goals that were to culminate on April 27th. And while we both crossed the finish line that day in terms of the marathon, our audacious reading and memorizing goals were left behind at mile two.

When we first began training and I pictured marathon day, I pictured the shirt I would run in. On the front, of course, would be my number. On the back, however, I wanted two things. “26(.2) miles in my 26th year” and “…train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7b-8” As race day drew near, however, I didn’t feel like I could put those verses on my back. I could mentally assent to their truth, but my course of training did not show that was what I really believed. I made the sacrifices of time and effort to discipline and train my body for a 26.2 mile race, and come race day, I was ready. However, my training for godliness was sporadic and often shallow, and on race day, I wasn’t much further than when I started.

I am convinced that almost anyone can run a marathon. People of all shapes, sizes and ages cross that finish line. I used to see these people and think, “Really? You just ran a marathon?” It all comes down to training. If someone is willing to put in the time and effort to train and train well, then she can run the race … and finish. Hardly anyone, however, can just get up one morning and decide to go out and run twenty six miles. Determination and effort without training can only carry you so far.

There’s a book I have yet to read whose title captures for me the spiritual side of training: “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society,” by Eugene Peterson. I love that … a long obedience in the same direction. I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, but I oftentimes don’t want to work at it. I want to be perfect now. I want to say the right things at the right time. I want to behave appropriately always. I want to have self control. I want to be giving and unselfish. I want to snap my fingers and have all of this perfected in me instantaneously. I forget that it is in training, in hardships, in time and in pain that God “molds me and makes me after his will.” I want to work out only when I feel like it and then expect to run a marathon, but it doesn’t work that way.

I feel that my “bodily training” success has paved the way for success in “training in godliness.” I’ve learned that there are no short cuts. If I try to avoid the “hard” or the pain, I’ll only end up weak and shallow. It’s not always exciting or pleasant, but it’s always worth it. Awhile back, I read a Kate McDonald blog about her infant son’s temper tantrums. She wrote about how even at 14 weeks, Cohen thought he knew what was best and would rail against “tummy time.” She writes, “HE doesn’t know that to be able to walk, he needs to crawl and that to be able to crawl, he needs to learn to hold up his head and chest … which is why I am laying him on his tummy in the first place. It made me think about my life … and about God. God must chuckle at my twisting and turning and screaming about wanting my way and think, ‘really, Kate? Really? You are so sure you know that you know what you need, aren’t you?’ It was a small epiphany that left me thinking long after the little man had (finally) dozed off, worn out from his vain toiling. I found myself saying, ‘God, whatever it takes for me to walk … all of the stretching and discomfort … help me to quit fighting the things you have set in motion in my life to help me grow …'”

Hmm … whatever it takes for me to walk … or run. 🙂 That’s a scary prayer to pray. However, it’s a prayer that will hopefully carry me beyond mile two and on to twenty six.



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