One Step At A Time

One Step At A Time

The first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides who, according to legend, ran approximately 25 miles from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens to announce the defeat of the Persians in 490 B.C.

I used to run. I used to love running. I hope to pick up running once again. However, getting into a routine of running takes discipline. Building up the necessary endurance to run a 5K, 10K, half-marathon, etc. requires discipline and a plan. For many, it also requires a support structure.

As an example, for me to get back into shape for running a 5K will require an aerobic base building routine that includes a run/walk plan. An acceptable first week of training is 20 to 30 minutes total of jogging/running/walking three times a week. By contrast, ultra-marathoners (those who run 100-mile events), have insane training regiments. You don’t just wake up one morning and decide to be an ultra-marathoner (or regular marathoner for that matter). It takes time, it takes commitment, and it takes patience.

The same is true for being a Christ follower.

I admire those who’ve devoted a lifetime to serving God and sharing His glory with others. For me, the standard-bearer is John Piper. His site, Desiring God, is a fountain of learning and inspiration. I began my faith journey anew in the summer of 2009, and it’s such a blessing to be able to look back on the last eight and half years and recognize how much I’ve grown. I also look forward knowing I have a lifetime of growth yet to come.

I’ve also had conversations with others who are kicking the tires of faith or new to being in a relationship with Christ. I’ve been told they look at me as a model of what it means to be a Christian, and as flattering and humbling as that is, I remind them of how I still have a long way to go. Yet, I appreciate the comment, and I once again make the analogy to running. I am somewhere in the 5K to 10K stage of my spiritual activity, yet my eyes are set on the ultra-marathoning John Piper’s of the world, hoping I can one day come close to reaching those levels. By contrast, others find themselves on the couch, trepidatious about lacing up their Jesus shoes and starting a walk with Him.

What this all comes down to is that as we enter the season of resolutions and newfound resolve, I pray you give yourself the requisite patience and time to grow in your relationship with Christ. If you’re new to the faith, please know being a Christ follower is not easy. Accepting Jesus into your heart does not mean your life instantly becomes care-free. Instead, it means you can walk with confidence knowing God will provide.

The activation of the Holy Spirit within you is instant, but it will take years of spiritual and scriptural training to see the transformative change He provides. This means making reading the Word part of your plan. This means making service to others part of your plan. This means re-evaluating the priorities in your life. It’s a process – a sometimes grueling process – but one that yields rewards on both sides of eternity.

“He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
– 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 NLT


PostScript: I realized after having written this post I wrote basically the same post back in April of 2016. I try not to regurgitate material, and I apologize for the oversight.

Faith Run

I hate running. I love it, but I hate it. In a lot of ways, it’s like writing. The best way of saying it is, I enjoy the feeling of having run, but I do not enjoy the actual running itself.

I was a pretty decent runner in high school. I could run a 5k in under 17 minutes, and I was a relatively big fish in a very small pond. I stopped running when I went to college. I was not competitive against the opponents I faced. Instantly, I was a very small fish in very giant ocean. It was disheartening. It was demoralizing. It was defeating.

Running at Tulane University, soooooo many pounds ago.
Running at Tulane University, soooooo many pounds ago.

Fast forward twenty-five years and my desire to keep a promise I made to myself when I turned forty; to run a marathon by the time I am forty-five. So after sitting on that life goal for almost three years, I decided last Fall to start running again.

Did I mention I hate running?

In high school, I had a lot less mass on my frame to hold me down. Six-minute miles are easier to run when you’re susceptible of being knocked over by a strong gust of wind. Today, I have a more intimate relationship with gravity, and downward force is significantly less compatible with forward momentum. In summary, it’s a challenge to find the joy of running compared to pressing through the pain of running. But there are moments, in my experience, when there is the right mix of endorphins and environment that allow that joy of running to come to the surface.

When I picked up running again last Fall, my goal was to run in the Gasparilla 5K in February. I installed the Couch to 5K app on my phone, and it was the perfect trainer for getting in shape to go literally from no running to completing a 3.1 mile race.

When you start out with CT5K, the initial workouts are simple: A five minute warm-up (brisk walk), run for one minute, walk for a minute and a half, repeat over twenty minutes, and conclude with a five minute cool down. Looking back, that workout seems so simple, but it was quite the challenge when I started.

As the workouts progress over the weeks, you get to a point where the run is a ten minute run. I remember the first time I reached that point, and how I thought to myself there was absolutely no way I could continuously run for ten minutes. This morning, I ran the longest I’ve run since the Bush administration (Senior, not Dubya). Four miles, fifty-one minutes, no stopping. Again, looking back to mid-December when I was starting my CT5K program, the idea of running for nearly an hour without stopping seemed – no, WAS – impossible.

After having put in the initial work, grinding the first and second gears of the process, I can set out for longer distances and quicker mile splits. Don’t get me wrong, it still sucks. I was dying when I finished that fourth mile. My hips were aching. My calves were on fire. My breathing could’ve probably landed me a job on a 900-line. I was exhausted and I was in pain, but I did it.

Nike+

And this is almost exactly paralleled with the faith journey I began anew in 2009. I look back and see the growth I’ve experienced in my relationship with Christ since Lee and I began attending Relevant Church the week after we returned from our honeymoon. I look at some of the spiritual challenges I faced transitioning from a ‘completed Catholic’ to someone attending a non-denominational Christian church. I think about some of the the theological hurdles I had to clear in the early days of my new journey, and how easy they appear to me now even though they were really hard at the time.

It’s a process. It takes time.

longroad

I still face theological challenges and areas of growth in my faith. This is especially true since I am a student in Bible College. However, I am better equipped to face them. It can be said I am more ‘fit’ to address these challenges than I was seven years ago. Sermon after sermon, chapter after chapter, verse after verse, mile after mile; we build on the experiences we choose to undertake, even when some of those experiences are not so good along the way.

If you’re new to your faith, remember it’s okay to walk where others are running. If you’re a marathoner with Christ, remember that most of us are still working on building our spiritual endurance. But wherever you may find yourself on your faith journey, take pride in the fact that your on your way. Rejoice in the knowledge God loves you, and He is always by your side.

“Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.” – Philippians 2:16 NLT

The Great Provider

“Joshua traveled all night from Gilgal and took the Amorite armies by surprise.” – Joshua 10:9 NLT

This verse from the Book of Joshua is one on which I lean when I am going through a tough time. It is a reminder the realization of God’s glory is a two-way street. God delivers on His faithfulness, but only after we’ve moved to where He wants us to be so His glory can be realized. Only after we’ve marched all night long.

I have been training since December in preparation for the Gasparilla 5K on February 20. It will be the first 5K I’ve run in well over a decade, and I hope it is the starting point of a new running routine in this stage of my life.

The workout runs have left me tired and sore. Even though I have not been running every day, I am tired every day. This morning I woke up suddenly at 4:00 AM. I could feel how tired my body was, and I literally cried at the knowledge my alarm would be going off in 90 minutes, because the last thing I wanted to do was get up and run.

I prayed that God give me rest. It was that whole, “C’mon, God, you help me and I’ll obey you” kinda prayer. That’s not how faith works, but that was my mindset at that moment.

5More

At 5:30, when my alarm went off, I felt – quite miraculously – amazing. I got up, got dressed, read my Bible plan for the day, and headed off to the gym.

Now, it’s been my experience that God speaks to me through the music to which I listen while running. Today was no exception. I was working hard to press through fatigue and the pain in my hips from carrying this extra weight around my midsection (i.e. beer gut). But there I was, on a treadmill facing East, watching the dawn give way to a beautiful sunrise. Just as the sun cleared the tree line, washing my face in His glorious light, the song The Shadow Proves The Sunshine by Switchfoot came on my playlist. No doubt it was God delivering His glory, rewarding me for my obedience, and giving me the strength to get through my run.

Sunrise

The burning in my thighs, the pain in my hips, the tightness in my tendons: all were reasons for me to end my workout early, something I’d done before on more than one occasion. But today, God gave me the push to keep going. To persevere. To march all night long.

When you feel you can’t go on, remember the shadow is proof of the sunshine, and God is always there wanting you to trust in Him, asking you to surrender that burden to Him. Lean in to the knowledge that He is faithful, and that we, too, must do our part to realize the joy He has in store for us.