For it is by grace you have been saved...

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Theological Reflections On My First 5K Runs

OK.  First off.  Serious runner types can skip over the details of my running ability here.  I'm a guy who 6 months ago was 60 pounds heavier and couldn't walk to the track from the parking lot without getting winded.  It's the principles here.  So, that being said...

I wrote here before about my little effort to lose weight.  And I even mentioned the idea of “laying aside every weight” as mentioned in Hebrews 12:1.  But as I moved from just losing weight to actually running, and then to attempting to run a 5K race, the thoughts of Hebrews 12 just kept coming to mind.  Especially as they apply to our spiritual race.  And so, having now run two 5Ks, I thought I'd reflect a bit again on the ideas of this text and four particular lessons I've been reminded of lately. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

1. The Matter of Witnesses.  When I first started the weight loss thing, I mentioned I publicly so that I would have a bit of accountability.  Still, when I first started walking for exercise, I did it in the privacy of the church gym because I didn't want people to see me.  I was very self conscious.  

Later, as I realized that the gym floor isn't the best on my joints, I moved it outside out of necessity.  Then, as I started to actually run, there were only a couple other folks out there, so no biggie.  But when I showed up for my first 5K....all those people!!  But while still being self conscious about the whole thing, I realized two truths.  One, the other folks out there were just trying to run their race as well; they weren't there to judge me.  And two, those who did care about me out there were cheering me on. They wanted the best for my health.

In our spiritual race, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.  For some, that might make you a bit self conscious.  In some sense, it should.  We should be concerned about the witness our own life is in front of others.  But as for those around us each day, remember that those other folks are just out there trying to do their best as well.  We're fellow runners in this thing.  And in the end, those who care most about you are cheering you on.  We want the best in each others' spiritual lives.

2. The Matter of Weight.  As I said, I already wrote about the issue of laying aside weight.  And the obvious goal was originally to lose weight.  But moving on to the 5K thing I realized that weight is an issue in more than one sense.  Losing weight in general made the running easier.  But even from day to day, the clothes that I wear while running, even the little weight difference can matter.

When I started this thing, the weather allowed for shorts and a t-shirt.  Now, of course, it requires a couple layers, sweats, hoodies, gloves, etc.  And I've noticed that these layers make a difference.  It seems minor, but wearing a heavy sweatshirt and gloves slows me down a bit.  It's actually harder over the longer distance than it was when I carries less weight. My 5K times would only be a minute or less more than before.  Most wouldn't notice, but I did. Minor differences, but still differences.

In our spiritual lives, it's not always just about the “big sins.”  Sure we need to toss those.  But at times there are just little things, things other people would hardly even notice, but if we're honest, they slow us down.  They make it just a little harder.  Which is why Hebrews tells us to rid ourselves of those things that entangle and weigh us down.

3. The Matter of Endurance.  I know this is obvious, folks. I never claimed to be a genius or anything.  But running a 5K takes endurance, especially for those of us just starting.  I know some of these guys go running by me and finish in half the time I do.  But the goal is to make it to the finish line.  Keep pressing on.

And it's not always easy. You'd think after time it would get easier, and in some sense it does.  But circumstances change.  My first official run was a morning run, which is when I was used to running.  I actually did ok.  The second run a week later, was a night run.  It had been a long day. I wasn't used to doing night runs.  And my time was 30 seconds slower.  It even felt harder.  I struggled more in the second run than the first.  Different circumstances.  But I had to keep pressing on, it takes endurance.

Our spiritual life does get easier in some senses.  As we walk with Christ, as we grow closer to Him, many things get easier about that relationship. But circumstances change.  We may find ourselves in situations we're not used to.  We may struggle more at times.  But we keep pressing on.  It's about finishing the race.  It takes endurance.  It takes commitment and effort.  Keep running.

4.  The Matter of Goals.  My original goal was weight loss.  When I reached that, I added more weight loss.  Then it was to move from walking to running.  Then it was to run an actual 5K race.  Then it's to keep finishing those races.  I know I'm not going to “win” those things.  That's not my goal.  I know others are in it for the medal, coming in first, whatever.  My goal is to finish.  To keep running, and to finish. If I take my eye off that goal, if I try to run to compete with those who are just plain better at this, then I probably wont' have the “gas” to make it to the end.  Remember the goal.  Keep running to the finish.

In our spiritual life, we are told to keep our eyes on Jesus.  He is the author and finisher of our faith.  He is our goal.  Other people might run in life to get trophies, but we just look to finish.  We look to Him, and long to hear Him say, “well done, my good and faithful servant.” We just want to finish well.  If we take our eyes off that goal, it may cause us to become weaker, and feel as if we're “running out of gas.”  Keep your eyes on Jesus.  He's the goal.  Run to the finish.

I know this isn't anything earth shaking.  (It all sounded a bit more profound in my head while running this morning!) It's just really been on my mind.  I'm so thankful to have made it to the point of being able to actually finish two 5ks now.  I loved running the second with my brother-in-law, even if he did finish more than 5 minutes ahead of me.  (He is 9 years younger after all!).  It's been a fun journey for me.  I hope to keep it up. 

But more than that, it's reminded me of some serious issues about this race of faith.  I'm hitting middle age hard.  Coming up on 50 years.  More than 30 of those walking with Christ.  I need to be reminded to keep running.  Keep pressing on.  Keep my eyes on the goal.  Keep laying aside the weight.  Thank God for those around me who encourage me. And just keep running. 

No comments: