When I run, I am only there.
I recently finished a memoir by one of my favorite writers, Haruki Murakami, and it made me feel one particular emotion: conviction . Here is a guy who was just a jazz club owner in his twenties and on one particular night, after attending a baseball game, felt like he could write a novel. After this resolve hit his heart, Murakami knew he must change some of his habits to accommodate the work it takes to produce a novel. The discipline he chose was running and at the age of 33. After years of writing and running, Murakami has become of the most famous writers in the world, and known as the “running novelist.”
After finishing the memoir, I knew I needed to do something similar to jump start some projects I am working on with fresh motivation, so I dusted off running shoes that were given to me and began to run every day. I went on google and searched for trails near my house and found a hidden track that was right around the corner. Now, hear me clearly: the track I run on is messy and the grass around it is overgrown. There is never anyone out there running with me so I feel free to take off my shirt and allow the wind to comfort me as I breathe like an asthma attack is coming in the next ten steps. Seriously, I do not weigh that much to begin with but after one mile I realize how out of shape I really am.
I am not an athlete. Put a guitar in my hand and I can play, put a pen in my hand and I will write, put a microphone in my hand and I will speak, but put me on a running track and I barely survive. And yet, every day I am struggling to make it count and be in shape.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”-Hebrews 12:1
One thing is for sure: when I run I can only think of that which is near and close to my goal, my challenge. I am convinced that when you look at this in the spiritual dimension, distraction only ever overtakes us when we don’t run! God has an undivided heart towards us, but what does this mean? God is a runner, long pace and has a goal in mind for our lives. And we, who are His people, rest in the nature of God and run the best we can without holding back so that we stay on the task at hand and learn to live in the moment. Ask any true athlete (not me!) and they will tell you that after years of practice they are in a place that, instead of struggling to instruct the body to be active, they would now need to instruct the body to not be active. At some point the runner becomes so accustomed to the challenge that it becomes a necessary part of his or her DNA. And although it is hard, the endurance increases and the muscles learn to be obedient to the struggle.
Just as the passage in Hebrews 12 states, those who are entangled in sin are too easily distracted. It is the moment of false rest where we begin to orbit something we should get away from, and all of a sudden we find ourselves like a lamb in the thicket, waiting to be devoured. My encouragement to you today is to do the hard thing: take the time to run the race that God has set before you. Don’t attempt to run someone else’s race, because that is where you will get in trouble! Comparison is a snare and only causes us to be at a standstill or pursue with passion things which we aren’t gifted for. Run your race and fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:5). For I believe God to be interested in marathon runners, not 50-meter dashers (probably not a word)! Run with endurance, don’t worry about how fast or how cool you appear. Run and do not walk! Let it all hang out.
In conclusion, I have this little bump in my stomach…where I hide all my cookies (what my wife says). I have always been a thin guy, so I hated it until I began to run. Now that I run I don’t mind it so much because I know that I am working on getting it burned away, slowly but steadily. We all run the race of life with a mixed bag of shortcomings and hardships, the question is will you choose to enter into self-hatred or will you be unashamed in your struggled knowing that you are working on it? It is up to you.
When we run, we are only there.
1. Murakami, H., & Gabriel, P. (2008). What I talk about when I talk about running: A memoir. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.
3. I wanted to note that this is different than the whole “God has a plan for your life,” as if God has some augustinian blue print in the heavens, and if you get out of line you are probably a total failure. This is a ridiculous reading of Jeremiah 29:11 and I wanted to make it clear that God’s goal for all of our lives is to be like His Son, Jesus. However, we must begin to understand that there is a process by which we must partner with God and allow our lives to take shape, slowly and steadily. God’s purpose is flexible and allows us to make mistakes, having good days as well as bad ones, as long as we keep moving forward.