Thoughts from a Pastor / Runner

I really like running.  Some people just loathe it to no end, but I’m not that guy.  I’ve always had running in my blood.  From believing “Zips” (or some other new shoes from the late 70’s) would make me faster, to running my first mile race in middle school in just over 5 minutes, I’ve enjoyed running.  I got away from it for years at a time, but I’m just a happier guy when it’s built into my life.

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. – 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

I like the images that running provokes for my spiritual life.  I’m pursuing a prize, a goal.  It’s not a matter of being “first,” rather finishing well.  Now, I don’t have self-control in all things at all times, but I want it.  Running gives me a living and breathing illustration of this, whether food, stretching or sleeping, I’ve got to keep in mind how it’s going to affect my body.  This reminds me that my life is not segmented.  I cannot separate my physical life from my spiritual life.  Epicureans did that.  Gnostics did that.  They were categorically heretical!  Too often, Christians, including Christian leaders, become divided and segmented in how they view themselves spiritually.  God, help us love you with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength!

7 Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; 8 for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. – 1 Timothy 4:7-8

Bodily training is of some value.  Running marathons is a bit (a lot) obsessive.  There’s caution here.  I want any physical training I do to provoke me to a “how much more” kind of thinking spiritually.  I should train my life for godliness more than anything else.  One should be part of the other, but it never equates.  I didn’t memorize the amount of Scripture I’d hoped to during my last marathon training.  My quiet times did not increase as I’d hoped.  But there was something about learning to pray and worship on my feet yet again.  And it causes me to want more…be more.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. – 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Running won’t last forever, and neither will this life.  I ran about the same time as my last marathon 8 years ago.  That sounds great, but I’ve not forgotten that I’m 40 now (halfway to 80 as Anna likes to remind me).  My body reminds me that it’s not going to last.  However, the above passage makes plain that what should always happen is my “inner man” being renewed on a regular basis.  No, I don’t think that the soreness of running a marathon compares to the persecution faced in the early church.  I’m speaking strictly of the reminder / encouragement that no matter what society tells you; no matter what products you buy, life will end and you won’t get younger.  Remembering that we have an eternity to face is healthy and wise!

So, while God gives me the “legs” I’ll run.  I hope and pray that my focus will increasingly be toward Him in every way as I train.  I pray that my praying will be for the blessed body of Christ @ UBC who I’m privileged to serve.  My ambition in running (and reflecting on running) for UBC is NOT to make the congregation more physically fit.  Here’s my hope…

1 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, 2 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

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