Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nothing Runs Like a Deer ... or a Kenyan

I haven't been running for long in the overall scheme of things ... just about 2 1/2 years ... but in that short time, I've learned a lot. Some lessons are directly about running:
  • No one runs as fast and gracefully as a Kenyan.
  • Having the right shoes really does make a difference.
  • Performance is directly linked to how you choose to fuel your body.
  • Running is as much mental as physical ... maybe more.
  • Breathing is everything.
But better still, I've learned an enormous amount about life.
  • Progress requires discipline.
  • Approach challenges one step at a time.
  • Don't be intimidated by the end goal.
  • With the help of God we are able to accomplish anything.
... just to name a few. Recently, however, all of the lessons seemed to come together in one big one.

Productive Strides

In preparation to return to Ft. Jackson for the next two phases of my military training, I've been making a concerted effort to improve my running speed. I've come to the conclusion that my strides are what I call "unproductive." I take a lot of steps that don't make me a lot of headway. My feet come up and fall back down just inches away from where they started. At first I blamed it on my height, my short legs, my stumpy nature ... anything to keep it from being my fault. But the reality is ... my strides are unproductive ... and that doesn't have to be the case. If I am going to go to the trouble of changing clothes, lacing up my shoes, pulling back my hair, clipping on my ipod shuffle, and going out for a run, why not make it count?

Ask any runner and they'll tell you there are good running days and bad running days. Sadly, the day of my last 5k was a bad running day for me. 3.1 miles isn't really that far, but that day it felt like an eternity. Thankfully I began to hear the voice of God teaching me as I ran. (He has "coached" me on many a run.) He taught me to focus on a couple small things:
  1. Just take it one step at a time. - This lesson taught me to focus on each time my foot hit the pavement ... to choose to make that step count ... to push off and move myself forward.
  2. Breathe.- You cannot do anything without breathing. Breathing gets oxygen to your muscles so they can do what you are asking them to do.
That's it. One step at a time. And breathe. Nothing ground breaking. But then those two things started to mean more than what they appeared to on the surface.

One step at a time
In Ephesians 5:15, the apostle Paul writes, "Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Emphasis mine.)

Making the most of every opportunity ...
Making each step count ...

Why? Because the days are evil. They zip by at an unfair pace. They work against us to make us older, weaker, lazier, more complacent ... that is unless we choose to combat that. It doesn't happen on its own; it happens when we choose to make the most of every step. If you have life in your body, and I'm assuming no corpses are sitting around reading my blog, then you have purpose. There is a reason you are still here on this earth, breathing in and out. And the Bible says that purpose is to be in a relationship with God and introduce others to Him as well. To know God and to make God known. He alone is the source of life ... true life.

That's all well and good, but to many of us, we may as well have been asked to run a marathon. How can we know God? And how in the world can we possibly help others to know Him? We breathe. But not the physical act of breathing. The spiritual one. Did you know that Scripture uses the same word for "breath" as it does for "Spirit"? It is through the breath of God that creation was spoken into being. And the breath or Spirit of God is what brings each of us to life. (See John 15:4-5.)

There have been days when I've been running and have literally prayed for God to be the breath in my lungs. Just as literal breathing provides my body with what it needs, so does the Spirit of God provide my spirit with what it needs.

So I take a step, and let God enable me to make it count.
Then I do it again.
And again.
And again.
And one day I feel the glorious rush of the finish line tape across my chest.

In the physical, I will likely never run as well as a Kenyan. But in the spiritual, I can be as successful a runner as my God enables me to be. I want to "run in such a way as to get the prize" (I Cor 9:24). I want to live on purpose. No more unproductive strides.

{image: Chez Joe}

1 comment:

  1. Mer,
    I like this post....Great thought provoking reminders.....While drumming in church today I found myself wishing I could have competed in today's marathon..maybe next year.."the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong".Ecclesiastes 9:11