Monday, March 06, 2006

marathon theology

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 hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish. Heb. 12:1-2

A few years back I trained to run a marathon. The program that we were using was about a six month plan to prepare you to be able to run 26.2 miles. We would have base runs of 3-5 miles three times a week and on the weekend we would have the long run. The long run would get longer each weekend. (10, 12, 14, 16, and so on)

On the weekend we had our 14 miler we ran toward the church from a location southeast of the city. As we were arriving at the church I was so relieved that the run was over. I was having a bad day that day. Then my partner said that we had two more miles to go and we had to circle the block and finish the run. Two more miles?! After circling past the church a couple times I experienced incredible discouragement. We kept running and I started feeling really empty--like I had nothing left in the tank and with about 1 mile to go I “hit the wall”. I had to walk the rest of the way back. “The wall” is a runner’s term for a place of mental discouragement. Different runners hit the wall at different times for different reasons. You feel like you just cannot go any further.

Have you ever felt like that in life? Have you ever “hit the wall”? Have you ever thought, “I just can’t go any further”? Have you ever felt like you were making progress and then somehow started going in circles? I know I have at several points along my way. Discouragement can set in and before you know it you are ready to throw in the towel. I felt pretty bad that day and wondered if I had what it took to run a complete marathon. I learned some valuable lessons over the next several weeks about quitting and discouragement.

The next long run was 16 miles. I began to notice that each of us would experience discouragement at different times and we learned to talk each other through it. “Hang in there man—thirty more minutes” or someone would say, “I’ll take the lead for a while”. We began to sense when one needed encouragement and we gave it. It became clear that my body was not the problem--it was my head. I would start thinking about how hard what we were doing was and then my emotions would respond to the negative thoughts and then I would “feel tired”. Only when I could somehow get my eyes off of how hard it was and onto something else would I begin to “feel better”. Usually it was because one of my partners would see that look in my eye and say, “Hey Chris! How are you doing?” We even began to ask each other about what we were thinking knowing that maintaining a positive mindset was key to being able to finish the run.

I learned that I could never have done the running alone. I needed some friends who were committed to running the race as well. I needed them and they needed me. It was funny to see how at mile 14 I needed encouragement and then at mile 17 Craig would need it and at 18 Sean would need it and then at 20 I would need it again.

How are you doing in your race? Are you feeling like quitting? Do you have some committed Christian runners around you? Are you maintaining a positive focus on Jesus? Life is going to be challenging if you are attempting anything worth-while. You cannot do it alone. Jesus is present and His church is available. Connect with Him. Fix your eyes on Him. He can give you the strength you need to go all the way to the finish line!

“Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.” James 1:12 The Message

May God’s endurance be in you today,

No comments: