Why I run

Last year, I had lost a substantial (over 50 lbs) amount of weight by running. I ran alot. Since moving to Alabama, my diet has been less than spectacular, and my running has dropped off a fair bit.

Last night, I decided to go running. Now, I’ve ran off and on since I’ve been here. I haven’t completely stopped. It isn’t as bad as starting over for me – but I couldn’t come close to my 5k time from last year in my current shape.

One thing is true – as much as I like what running does for me, I’m really not fond of running in and of itself. I do it because I can do it. I don’t have anyone to go to the gym with me on my weird schedule, so I really don’t know what I’m doing in a weight room. But I do have a nice pair of shoes and a safe neighborhood. And I enjoy being by myself and recharging while I run. But I tell you this – no more than 20 minutes into the run, several things are happening in my body.

1. I can actively feel my face melting. Face droplets are running down the rest of my face. I am leaving parts of my face on the road as I run. This continues for about half an hour after I run, too.

2. I believe people gawk at me when I run. “That guy is much too big to be running.” They watch me run for the same reason I watch NASCAR. They are afraid I’m going to wipe out right there in the street, and they have their camera phones ready.

3. My legs do ok. They are more or less in similar shape from last year. But my breathing….I feel like I am trying to breathe underwater. My lungs hurt. Various pains want me to contort myself as I am running.

4. I sweat so much. I do not like sweat. I don’t mind sweating, but I do not like sweat. It is icky. It is smelly. I don’t like it on me, or on other people. Sweat is a blight upon this world.

So, you may ask, why did I go running last night? Because when I woke up this morning, I had the health and the body I wanted, of course! I finished my weight loss in one go. My health problems all melted away. My blood pressure is normal again! Yay!

Of course not. It will take months to reach those goals, if not more. And it will take a lifetime of being committed to those goals to remain at them. I know this. That’s just part of life.

But that actually isn’t what I’m writing about. Keep reading – follow me!

In life we see stuff and we want it. The value of hard, committed work for a valuable end result has been negated in our society. We, instead, have been pitched this idea of instant gratification – get rich quick schemes, credit cards, fast food joints, digital photography, the internet – things that used to take time are near instant now. Whether fortune, large purchases, hamburgers, photos, information, or whatever, we’re used to snapping our fingers and receiving.

Our personal heath is an exception to this. Despite the many claims to the contrary, there isn’t a secret, easy way to be fit and to have a healthy lifestyle. Rather, what made a person healthy in 2,000 BC, 100 AD, or 1500 AD is still what does the trick in 2013. Eating right and giving attention to the body is the answer.

There is another notable exception. It is our spiritual walk. It is very similar to our physical health, in some ways. There are no shortcuts. There is no “secret method.” The same way to be a believer in Jesus Christ today was the same way 10, 100, or 1000 years ago. In fact, the metaphor of running a race is so relevant, that Paul chooses to use it in describing his own walk in the 3rd chapter of Philippians:

12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Isn’t that interesting? So, what conclusions can we draw from this simple comparison?

1. The choice to run is ours. I didn’t have to run last night. I could’ve stayed in and played a video game, watched a movie, played a game with a kid, whatever. But I chose to run.

The choice to walk with Christ is ours. He gave us free will. We aren’t forced to live a Christian life. This is evident by the myriads of people who choose not to. It is, in fact, a harder choice to run than to stay indoors. And likewise, it is a more difficult choice to walk with Christ than to fail to do so.

2. We run with the finish in mind. When I run, I run to the end of our neighborhood. My little subdivision ends at a fair distance away from my house. But when I get to that point, I have no choice but to turn around and go back to the start (the finish). I have put myself in the position that I can’t short-cut myself, I can’t cheat, and I can’t stop. No – if I want to get in a nice warm shower and hug on my kids, then I have to go to the finish line.

Paul says – forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead. Are we trying to cheat ourselves out of the finish line? We have to run with the finish in mind. It would be easy to stop on the side of the road. It’d be easy for me when running to listen to my body and stop – “I can’t do this anymore!” But the rewards for completion are far greater, and I have to keep those rewards in mind when running.

3. Running is long-term. I didn’t solve my health problems by running last night. I didn’t, in fact, lose all my weight (The bowl of ice-cream I had when I got back probably didn’t help either). No – I’m going to have to repeat the process many, many times if I want to get back to where I was a year ago. It is far from instant gratification. It is a lifestyle.

Our spiritual walk is also long-term. The greatest rewards often are born out of a period of time with a continual, consistent walk with Christ. As I run consistently, I start to be a better runner. I drop weight. My health improves. People eventually even began noticing and commenting last year. The same is true spiritually. One quiet time is important in the same way the first few steps are important. But the greatest and biggest changes come when we have committed ourselves to the course. When we stop being a person who is running, and start being a runner. When I stop being a person who does Christian things (go to church, try to be good), and become a person who is, inside and out, a Christian.

4. You will never regret finishing a run. I’ve ran 6 or 8 5ks. Some have been good and some have been bad. I felt wonderful after breaking the 30 minute barrier last year. It was a huge goal! But, I never regretted running one of those races.

The prize at the end of our spiritual journey – the “upward call of God in Christ Jesus” is greater than any temporary prize we could ever achieve here. Spending eternity with God is of more joy than all of our other joys combined.

So, consider running. Make the choice to start. Envision the end result – the finish. Remember, one run won’t do – you have to become a runner. And finally, consider what the prize will be.

You’ll never regret it!

Image
Pastor Harvey approaching a finish line in 2012
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