Below is a devotional I wrote and shared at a meeting of our church council a few months ago. I know many runners who are Christians. But I also know many runners who are not, or who follow other religions, or who profess to not have a belief in God.
My blog is not a place for religious debate. If you do not share my beliefs, that’s fine – that’s your choice. But this is who I am and how I try to live my life. My faith in God provides me strength in ways I can’t even number. And it is certainly due to Him that I can run and not grow weary. (See Isaiah 40:30-31)
Feb 27, 2011
Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. – Deuteronomy 31:6
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30
I want to talk today about Encouragement
A few of you already know that my husband, Steve, ran the Gasparilla Half Marathon this morning. He was pleased that in his “last race” in this age division (his birthday is this week) he bettered his time by 3 minutes over his Disney Half Marathon in January….finishing today in 1 hour and 50 minutes. (You’ve seen him – tall skinny and no wind resistance).
He used to run cross country in high school and race 5Ks in grad school…but it was put aside in recent years and it wasn’t until a few months ago that he dusted off the running shoes and picked up the sport again. Now, this has been my first venture into being a “running widow”….and over the course of trips to Dick’s Sporting Goods, the “Hit the Trails” store, reading running books, supporting him thru four recent races, I’ve learned a lot about the running community and the encouragement it provides. And lo – we as Christians can take a lesson from encouragement done well.
If you’ve never been to a race, the scene is quite amazing. Runners are greeted by the most cheerful of volunteers, often sent off in a flurry of fireworks, and bands or dj’s playing loud music to pump up the excitement. There are balloons and well wishers lining the majority of the distance. When you run a race at Disney – you even get met by loveable characters in costume along the way. The volunteers who serve drinks along the way and food and sustenance after the race are friendly and caring to every last runner…..especially the last ones.
This morning, the kids and I elbowed our way through the throngs of people to stand right near the finish line in order to best catch a glimpse of Steve crossing the finish. Well – the text messaging from the race officials never got me the message that he had actually finished the race 20 mins before we got there. (So of course I worried that his knee had given out and he was on a stretcher somewhere…..but for the topic of worry – please see Pastor Kim’s sermon this morning.) Anyway – for 30 mins we watched in amazement at the runners crossed the finish line. Cheers were endless – for everyone…. the ones who collapsed, for the couples running hand in hand, and for the 75 year old man who looked like he could go another 13.1 miles. And of course the big shiny bling of a medal for all who finish. The tears of happiness on the runners’ faces were matched by an equal sea of tears in the spectators. One woman turned to me and said – this is so emotional – so wonderful.
The competitive nature of running seems a bit strange for an analogy to Christianity. But if you talk to any runner – it’s often not about the bling and winning. Cause winning a race is rather rare unless you are very young or a professional.
Instead running is about:
- Running is good for you
- Running makes you a healthier person
- Running helps you make better life choices
- Running helps you make a commitment and stick to it
- Running helps you set goals and becoming stronger
- Running gives you a supportive community where each person is lifted up.
Wow reminds me a lot about Christianity as I know it.
- Faith in Jesus is good for you
- Faith in Jesus makes you a healthier person
- Faith in Jesus helps you make better life choices
- Faith in Jesus helps you make a commitment and stick to it
- Faith in Jesus helps you set goals and becoming stronger
- Faith in Jesus means joining a supportive community where each and every person is lifted up.
Oh and one last one I forgot on my list … Runners are not only passionate about each other but are passionate about making other people into runners too. As a committed non-runner, I’ve often stated that I only run when chased by bears. Which, thankfully in my neck of the woods is a rarity. As I’ve supported Steve I’ve met more and more people who are passionate about their running – but also equally passionate that it’s for everyone and that everyone can do it. They admit it’s not easy – there are days the joints hurt – but that at the end of the day – they feel better. Running has strengthened them….and they want nothing more than to have others feel the same as them – the highs of enjoying the sport and loving what they do. Hmm…isn’t that what we are called as Christians to do as well? Help others see that faith is for all and while it doesn’t make life perfect, it certainly is wonderful.
As a non-runner – I’ve had many many runners (friends and acquaintances) encourage me to start running – to join them – who make it sound wonderful. It makes me stop in my tracks to consider whether there are any non-Christians out there who have said – there are many many Christians out there who have encouraged me to start believing – to join them – who make it sound wonderful.
I’ll be considering that – how and when I can encourage others – non-Christians – to walk with me in Christian faith and joy. I’ll be thinking about it this week – while I’m tying the laces on my new running shoes.