A couple of months ago the ministry I work for decided to use the NJ Long Branch Marathon as a fundraiser. At first I didn’t think much of it. I’m not a runner. As a matter of fact I am an asthmatic who is beyond athletically challenged. This race was for my husband to complete, look at him, he is built like a runner. Then our office needed someone to step up and be part of a two person half-marathon relay. This would mean an almost 7 mile “race.” Can we revisit that I AM NOT A RUNNER? Yes, you’re already there I had to start training.
My feet hit the pavement that first day and it was almost laughable. I walked more than I ran, my stride was heavy, my lungs killed me and I am excruciatingly slow. Still every day for 3 months now I have run some distance. In this process the Lord has shown me some things:
- Pace Yourself: I rarely start out strong. The first mile is when my lungs and muscles all seize. Running up hill is literally a battle. We can get bursts of energy, followed by a desire to quit. The goal is to finish. I learned to keep a pace that allows me to run, more than I walk, and keep on.
- Keep Moving: Every runner talks about hitting a “wall.” This is the point at which you have a choice to quit or keep going. It is usually just beyond this point when a new surge of energy hits. The Lord will do the work, he just doesn’t want us to give up. His greatest desire is that we are ever moving towards him and his purposes.
- It is entirely about the finish line. Today was race day. The marathon commission had posted signs of inspirational quotes on the side of the road for motivation. A Chinese Proverb read, “The Journey Is the Reward.” My immediate thought honestly, was, “That would be a disappointment.” We know Hebrews 12:1 tells us to run the race set before us with endurance. However, if it is merely about the journey we miss the point. We can keep persevering, because the finish line involves running into the arms of Jesus.
- Running Makes You Want to Run. When I started training I had to overcome shin splints. Then came learning to press through when my lungs feel like they might collapse. I hated it, but I felt compelled to keep running. For each small accomplishment, I have wanted to put another foot forward. Sometimes life with Christ is hard. The calling to ministry can be overwhelming. At the same time being with Him makes me want to go on this road farther at His side.
Today as I crossed the finish line John looked at me and said, “I have a feeling this race is the first of many .” I turned to him and said, “I think I could do a half-marathon next time.” 7 miles is the farthest I have ever run to this point in my whole life. Did I mention I’m still not a runner? I can’t deny when I run God is evident there with me. I see Him in His creation as I pass by. I feel him as the body he created is pushed to the limit. I know He is near and it causes me to praise him. Aren’t our actual races in life and ministry eerily similar?
How is your youth ministry race looking? What does your pace look like? What walls are you hitting? How are you staying focused on the finished line?