I realize its benefits, but to be honest, I’ve never been one of those people who likes to run. Those people are really amazing, aren’t they?
I have a lifelong friend who is one of those happy-when-running people. Throughout my life she has motivated me to run at various times and in various ways. When we were in middle school she’d come to my house and coax me to go on five mile treks with her. At first we had to walk most of the way, because I wasn’t conditioned. But with time it became easier, and eventually I could run alongside her the whole way, albeit at a moderate pace, while chatting and even laughing a bit.
In high school she convinced me to try the indoor track team. (I was on the team for exactly one day before the delayed onset muscle soreness kicked in and I threw in the towel. Turns out I’m more of a recreational runner than an actual athlete.) When we were official adults, settling into newly-acquired apartments and full-time jobs, she convinced me to run a 5k with her. A couple years after that she convinced me to do a 10-miler. She managed to convince me to do this twice, actually. She’s a pretty convincing person now that I think about it.
Lately my friend spends most of her days running after little boys, so I’m pretty much off the hook (for now). But I’ve gone back to running a bit on my own. I use the phrase “on my own” loosely to describe me running while pushing a double jogging stroller. Sometimes I push one kid, sometimes two, depending on whether my husband is home and when everyone wakes up.
I’ve been running with the kid(s) most mornings for about two months now. The other morning, I realized something: running is easier than it used to be. I didn’t notice it getting easier, because it happened so slightly and imperceptibly. But one day, out of the blue, I just realized I wasn’t so tired. I found myself wanting to go a little farther, and even a little faster. I found myself looking forward to my morning run instead of dreading it.
Endurance: it’s a real thing, but we rarely see it unfolding. Little by little, we become stronger each time we stretch out of our comfort zone. Some days are harder than others, either because we’re carrying a heavier load by choice, or because we’re running on terrain that has become steep due to circumstances outside of our control. But we are building something on these particularly hard days; we are building endurance.
Here’s the thing, though: our own endurance is limited. There are some crazy fast runners in the world, but even they are limited by the physical constraints of the human body. We all are bound in some way by our limits, and there are times when those limits seem so very palpable.
The Bible says that “God’s power is unlimited” (Job 36:22). Because we have an inexhaustible source of endurance to tap into as we navigate through this life, I sometimes find myself foolishly thinking this means things will be easy. Really, it’s quite the opposite. If you choose to run with God, his limitless power will often push you to do something which seems impossible. It will seem like you don’t have the energy, courage, money, wisdom, etc. – it will seem like you simply can’t do whatever it is that God has called you to do. And it will be true, that you can’t do it. But remember, you haven’t chosen to run on your own power. You could quit at any time of course, but if you choose to *keep* running with God, you’ll come to a point at which you simply have to muster up the guts to take a step forward. That’s when this whole endurance thing kicks in. You may not perceive it as it’s happening, but make no mistake about it – it will be happening. The God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph 3:20) will be doing big, crazy, awesome things in you and through you as you run with endurance.
If we are going to run in this big, limitless, All-Glory-To-God way, there are two things we must remember:
1. One person’s 5k is another person’s marathon. Don’t compare yourself to others and try to determine who’s the better runner. If you do, you’ll find yourself getting off course and heading to nowhere. Run your race, and run it well. “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” – Galatians 6:4-5 MSG
2. We weren’t meant to run this way alone. Starting, continuing, and finishing a race like this is best done in community. I never would’ve tried running to begin with if it hadn’t been for my friend, and I certainly wouldn’t have stuck with it years later. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the friend doing the cheering, or the one barely shuffling along just trying not to collapse, because at one point or another you’re bound to be both. God didn’t design us to do life alone, and he especially didn’t design us to fulfill His purpose alone. Community is critical to endurance. There will be times when you won’t be able to sense your endurance growing, but those running alongside you will see it and encourage you. Even more precious are the friends who will see you not taking a first step, and will gently tug you by the wrist to just go ahead and get moving already! “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
If you look into the distance today and see something scary, perhaps there’s a first step to be taken. And perhaps today is a good day to take it.
There’s lots more I could say about running, but it’s time for me to literally put some sneakers to the pavement this morning. Hopefully I’ve gained more endurance since yesterday, because I’ll be pushing two kids, and I’m planning for a long one.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” – Hebrews 12:1 NLT