As much as I enjoy this fantasy that I’m a runner, I’m surrounded by some real runners in my family. My cousins Wendy and Chrissy have run half marathons.
I have friends that have done multiple full marathons and triathlons. I admire them so much, but I don’t run WITH any of them. Whatever that thing is that they have developed inside of them - that determination, that perseverance through the physical pain, that very low percentage of body fat… it intimidates me. I want it, but haven’t been able or willing to pay the price for it.
But, oh, if you were to see me run in the park!
It’s about 2.5 miles around, and I can do it without stopping. After all, I have done a few 5K’S which are longer than that. The problem is I haven’t been training like I was when I had a race coming up, so my stamina isn’t what it was. I was out there running one day last week and started out really well. I was at a good pace and hear come some folks from my church walking towards me. I love it when that happens. You see people you know at the park and they just happen to catch you when you’re rockin’ the run. That’s what happened. To them, I looked like a real runner. They smiled and said hello and gave me the thumbs up and nod of approval as if to say, “You go girl!” I enjoyed thinking about them talking later about how “that Tracey is quite the runner, isn’t she?”
The problem is, this path at the park is a big circle around a lake, so people you see coming toward you, you will see again, eventually. My run started off great, but soon I was sucking wind and slowed down to a walk. I was enjoying this pace, until I saw up ahead, through the trees, them coming back again. The church folk. So I timed it just right, and started running again just so that when we passed one another, they would catch me in a beautiful gazelle-like stride. Once again, I got those big approving smiles and even a little hand-clap. Oh, yes, I am a runner. To them.
You see, I can do a little work and make it look like I’m a legit runner, if you catch me at the right time. But you put me out there on race day with runners and spectators, a real course, and a chip in my shoe that’s timing me, and the truth is gonna come out.
Many of us try to live our spiritual lives the same way. We admire people with such a mature faith, who know the Bible so well and carry themselves with a peace and a confidence that is rare. Sure, they go through hard times, but they just seem to come through with even more strength than they had before. You want what they have. You’d like your life to look like that, but you can’t fake being a Christian any more than you can fake being a runner. Sooner or later the trials are going to come, the squeeze is going to be on, and what’s really on the inside is going to come out. Even if you’re able to somehow manage behaving in such a way others may think you’re legit, the truth will come out sooner or later who was really your source of strength.
And here’s the thing. It might be fun for a moment to “act” the part of whatever it is you’d like to be, but there’s nothing like the real joy that comes from doing the real work that’s required to accomplish the goal.
To be a runner who can run a marathon, you’ve got to train.
To be one of those Christians with that steadfast faith you admire, you’ve got to train…and trust.
Train by seeking the Lord and pursuing real relationship with Him by studying His word, worshiping Him and living in obedience to Him. It is, as Eugene Peterson says, “a long obedience in the same direction.”
And trust. The hardest work has already been done by Jesus on the cross on your behalf. Trust in Him.
The overflow of a life lived like that will bring you more than a nod of approval from people. It’s the pure joy of hearing your Savior say the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
- 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have theSon of God does not have life.” - 1 John 5:12
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” - Jeremiah 29:13