Monday, April 28, 2008

The Race of Life

I've run and walked a few marathons. The first one I did in honor of our daughter Faith, who was still born June 23, 1999. I was physically the least prepared for that one, as I only trained for 2 1/2 months, but emotionally I needed to do it as part of the grieving and healing process. After that, I decided to do a marathon after all the babies I had. So, the next one was in 2001, after Josiah was born. I had more training time, 7 months, and was a little faster. After that marathon I got the bug, so after I had Mia I really got into training. I lost some weight and got faster. Not only did I do one marathon in the year after Mia was born, I did three, followed by two the next year. After Sierra was born it took me a whole year of training but I did complete a marathon in Alaska.
Along the way there are some things that I've learned about races and life. First of all, training is our friend. The more you prepare and condition your body, the more natural the race feels (read "less pain"). In life, I believe our training time is our quiet time, reading God's word and praying, preparing for the race of life. Having good "training" time is important as this is not a short run and we can not "gut it out".
I also learned that when you start the marathon you have all the mileage in front of you so it's best not to worry too much about where the finish line is, but instead to focus on each mile you pass and celebrate those. Small goals will help you reach your big goal: that medal at the end and your free t-shirt! Not to mention the satisfaction that you just completed a 26.2 mile race. In life, we should take it one day at a time.
Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Now this next point is opinion, but this is my blog, so... It is better to run and walk rather than to just run, unless you are a superstar. Since I am not a competitive runner (I never had aspirations of winning any money or gaining any fame) when I run I always plan in scheduled walk breaks. These walk breaks allow for bits of recovery time and allow me to finish the race feeling really good (all things considered). On the other heand, when you walk the whole race, your muscles and joints get worn out of the same motion over and over again. You can try to run for a bit, but since you didn't train for running, it is not really comfortable either. Also, walking a marathon just takes forever and that makes it hurt more regardless of training. I believe we are designed to run life's race, not to walk it.
1 Corinthians 9:26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.
So, we don't want to live an aimless life, but, since we don't know how long our life race is, we do need some walk breaks. There are times in life that are slower paced, times where we sprint, times that are like a downhill breeze where all we have to do is make sure we don't fall, and then there are the uphills! Through all paces of life we don't know what's around that next corner (an uphill, a downhill, a water station, gummie bears!). With that in mind, it's important to plan in those walk breaks in life, times to refresh, reflect, and renew our spirits. Walk breaks allow us to run stronger over the long haul.
I also learned, it's helpful to run or walk with a friend. That companionship allows for us to encourage each other at the tough spots, give hope when it seems hopeless (like at mile 16 when there's still 10 miles to go!), push each other a little further than we might have gone alone, and have someone to celebrate with when it's all over. We also need them for accountability because it's too easy to slack in the training and never be prepared for the race. God did not design us to run life's race alone, we are designed for community because of some of the same reasons I need a running/walking partner: encouragement, hope in down times, to push us further, for celebration, and for accountability.
On the flip side of what people can add to your race, sometimes people can be just what gets you headed in the wrong direction. Believe it or not, I actually followed someone off course one time. It added a mile or more onto my race. Instead of following the signs that marked the course, I had begun following the runner ahead of me. This wasted energy, threw off my time goal, and was just plain irritating when I had to back track.
Galatians 5:7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?
In life, we have to make sure we're on track, obeying God's truth, and running a good race!
Hebrews 12:1-3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

So, my last, and probably most important, thought is, how can we run the race without having an intimate relationship with the creator of the course? Though we can't see what's around the next bend, we can trust God to lead us through whatever comes and we can know it was not a surprise to him. We also know that Jesus ran a perfect race and endured great opposition, he's the perfect role model. He set an example to encourage us when the race gets hard for us and we want to quit.
Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
(I memorized that verse while running the Portland Marathon!) Jesus can sympathize with our weaknesses. He knows our pain, he remembers mile 18 and that awful hill!! We can go confidently to him and receive mercy and grace. He will help us in our time of need. Fix your eyes on him. And when our life race is over, while we're enjoying our oranges and bagels, may we say...
2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

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Lord, lift me above my own narrow horizons, that I might fulfill your true vision for me. - B.J. Hoff