This may or may not be my last small installment of marathon observations, but thanks for the freedom to post a bit uniquely in recent days. I keep want to recommit myself to blogging with frequency and keep failing. I’ll try yet again.
1) Smoking before the start – Now, I wish my race had gone so well that I could say I was smoking during the race, clearly meaning that I was tearing up the course. However, since my race didn’t fare that well, I’m left with a stark memory of the guy who, before entering the “runners only” field, was trying very hard to suck in a last few puffs from his cigarette.
My immediate thoughts were almost immediately mixed. By a split second, I thought, “Are you kidding me?” Then quickly came (and don’t misinterpret this), “Impressive.” I’m pretty much a freak in preparing for a race. I won’t eat anything I think will mess with my body or that I’m not really familiar with. I mean, even in downtown Chicago with all of it’s great restaurants, I still managed to find a CVS, buy some skim milk and Raisin Bran. But the fact this guy could smoke like that and run? Well, I didn’t resolve to be impressed. It really was more sad. This guy’s addiction was stronger than his passion to run.
We face that, right? We run this marathon race of Christianity and are charged to throw off any entanglement and sin (Hebrews 12:1-2), but we sometimes face (either in ourselves or others) the awful truth that the passion to run the race does not overcome the addictive hindrances to running. That’s why it can’t be just the run itself, it has to be the joy in the finish. Christ was to experience the unhindered joy of fellowship with the Father, having perfectly accomplishing His will in ransoming His children.
We have to have a super joy, otherwise the lesser pleasures (even sinful ones) will hang around enough to hinder how well we run. For some, these prevailing fleshly passions will bear evidence that the individual has never even approached the start line in being saved in the first place.
2) Encouragement is critical – This is a great reminder to me. I struggle with giving and receiving encouragement as I should. Somewhere in that mix is pride. Oh, there are some much more naturally gifted at encouragement than others, but we all have need to give and receive it.
One of the pleasures of the Chicago Marathon is the crowd support. With 40,000 or so runners, they estimate about 1 million spectators. One of pleasures for me was running by the historic Moody Church. I distinctly remembered in 2009 how great their support was, and this year was even better. Chris Tomlin was coming through load and clear through big speakers along the block of the church. It was easy to remember to pray for the greater body of Christ as well as UBC while they were gathered on a Sunday morning. I loved that the church took time out of a normal Sunday morning routine to encourage runners. Of course, for believers it’s true encouragement. For unbelievers it could be witness. That’s the thing about true, biblical encouragement (word spoken, sung, or prayed) is that it must be gospel centered, and the gospel is good for any audience.
3) Recovery – I’ve never recovered well from a marathon. What I mean is that I have this ambition not to waste all of my training on just one race by stopping running for weeks and months. Now, you have to take some time off to get rid of the soreness, but you want to start modestly a week or two later. I’ve had every intention to get back to running, but sometimes circumstances (caused or allowed by our sovereign and gracious Lord) change our plans.
I had my wisdom teeth out the week after my run (that shot an extra week of running). By the end of that week developed a dry socket, and there went another week. And as I lay in bed staring at some crutches with a twisted ankle, it’ll be another week at least. I don’t know where I’ll pick up, but my passion to run is not gone. On the other side, God has been gracious to deliver me from intense amounts of frustration that it’s just been one thing after the other (none of this is accounting for my wife’s travails and physical difficulties in these many weeks).
The truth is, and many of you know what this is like, it’s just kind of comical. As I’m getting x-rays this morning on my ankle, I just look Jan in the eye while she’s holding Jonathan and say, “Hey, this is like a date!” We laugh and do some kissin’. God just has plans for my holiness and I receive gladly from Him (not all the time) the means He chooses for that end…because that’s my joy. I want to do the will of God and see Him at the end of this race.
So, in seasons remember to rest and recover from more difficult stretches, but also remember to trust God’s hand in your recovery. He may even choose injury to deepen and lengthen the recovery time for an even longer run yet to come. But in this remember, and analogies break down at some point, you’re never NOT running this race of sanctification, even in recovery. Center on the gospel and your future joy. You’ll throw off the right things and joyfully receive the God-things, and you’ll be a better runner for it.