I Am a Runner {Not the Kind You’re Thinking Of}

As I turn the corner, I see the balloons…signs…flags, signaling the finish.   The official timer is there too, but I can’t read it.  There’s a small hill.  I must go up and then down to the finish.

The finish.

I catch sight of the word emblazoned above the street, and my breath catches in my throat.  Suddenly, after almost 13.1 miles, I am unable to keep going.  I can’t breathe.  I am overcome with emotion, gasping for air, choking down tears.

Months of training.  And, I am going to finish. Really!

My friend (and trainer), Ashley, looks at me as I struggle for air…tons of emotion crashing down all at once.  When I first begin to struggle, Ashley’s sweet disposition urges me on, reminding to take deep breaths through my nose and out my mouth.  She excitedly points out that we are nearing the finish after almost three hours.

It doesn’t help.  I can’t seem to move forward.

I’m overwhelmed.

Ashley grabs my arm; looks into my eyes.  Gone is the sweet disposition – in its place is the fierce face of a person who has literally walked and ran with me on this journey to completing a half marathon.  She wants this for me. I can see it.

Come on! This is what you’ve trained for…let’s go.  She pulls me by the arm toward the finish.

It’s as if I’ve latched on to her strength, and I begin jogging…then running toward the finish.  My foot hits the line at 3:30:00, finishing 8,825th out of 9,934.

half marathon bib

I’ve thought of this moment often this week as I have begun training for a half marathon…again. I’ve recalled how my life was changed through training and changed again when I reached my goal and stopped training, failing to set new goals and keep trying.

It’s also reminded me of a different kind of “running” that I am prone to.

Ugh.

I am a runner. NOT a half-marathon runner.  Let’s face it, placing 8,825th doesn’t scream “runner.”  But, I am a runner in the sense that I often run when I can’t live up to expectations, fix the situation, and/or feel accepted.  I run from people, from situations, and from God when those people don’t act like I want them to, when the situation doesn’t turn out as I had hoped, and when God doesn’t show up or answer as I had wished.

When the tough gets going, so do I.

And while I am aware of my tendency to run and often force myself to stay in the race, moving steadily toward the finish and not back to the start, the start is often closer and easier to find.  It’s usually a place I’ve been and know well.

Comfortable.  Safe.

So as I literally run on a machine, God leads me to this podcast:  Why Run When You Have Been Rescued?

If I am rescued, saved, delivered, and free, why do I run from Him?  From His will? From fully surrendering to living rescued?

Instead of grabbing His hand, yelling this is what you’ve trained for, and pressing toward the finish, I stop –  allowing fear and emotion and hurt to overpower me.  Withdrawing my hand from His, thinking the race is too hard and long, I bail.  I leave the race, heading toward the sidelines to sit out.

I listen to Matt Younger teach as I sweat bullets on the elliptical, hearing this…

We know who Jesus is.  We know Jesus has promised us eternal life.  We know He wins in the end.  We know following Him is costly and suffering inevitable.

We KNOW these things.

In Hebrews, the writer acknowledges their pain and reminds them of their reward…but then he asks the church…why are you running if you’ve already been rescued?

You know the promises of God but you forget them often.

These Christians were running to religion, running inward (to themselves and away from community), to the world and worldly pleasures, and to strange teachings. 

And I am forced to ask myself…where am I running and why?

Am I running to religion, using rules and regulations and processes in an effort to make myself righteous or explain away my hardship? Trying to become accepted for my works, not simply by grace.

Am I running inward?  Am I “neglecting meeting together” (Hebrews 10), moving away from community? Keeping to myself.

Am I running to the world and worldly pleasures, neglecting to surrender all to Him and justifying my actions as I compare myself to culture and others?

Am I running to strange teachings, listening to voices that justify my behavior or allow me to live my best life now instead of submitting to Him and a life centered simply on glorifying Him and not me?

I am rescued.  So, why am I running literally and spiritually from surrendering every area of my life?  From resting in Him.  From living rescued.

We are rescued.  So, why do we run?  Why do we sprint toward religion, earthly pleasures, isolation, and appeasing voices when life becomes difficult?  Like the early believers who were struggling and being persecuted, we run.

We run because it’s easy. We run because it feels safer. We run because we’re mad at how God’s choosing to answer prayer.  We run because life isn’t fair. We run because [insert your answer here.]

But, we don’t have to run.

We can live rescued.  Live with eternity in mind, knowing He wins.  And while that may seem difficult or even impossible in the race you’re running right now, I pray you lean into Him, asking Him to help you run toward the prize – Jesus – and away from you or what the world “feels” or “thinks” is the best way.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

Hebrews 12: 1-4

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