A year ago at this time, I had one goal that was occupying a lot of my time and energy—qualifying for the Boston Marathon. In 2012 I ran my first marathon with a desire to qualify but not really having any idea if it was possible. I surprised myself by the strength that came out as I focused on simply finishing 26.2 miles of running. I decided to sign-up for year number two and focus not only on finishing, but also on qualifying for the Boston Marathon 2014.
I began my training in January 2013 for the Pittsburgh Marathon on May 5, 2013. On April 15th the finish line of the Boston Marathon was bombed—3 killed and 260 injured. It was startling and a really interesting time to be part of a large running club. Mostly though, it made that desire in me even stronger.
Now, as you may have guessed since I am writing this today instead of running, I did not qualify. It was disappointing but this is what is so sweet—God taught me SO much about knowing Him in the midst of my training. Isn’t God so incredible? There is nothing in our life that He cannot use to bring Himself glory.
So in honor of today being “Marathon Monday”, the day of the Boston Marathon, I thought I would share a little of what I learned while training about running with endurance in my faith.
“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
If I can summarize what I learned, it is that setting my eyes on a goal means every other aspect of my life needs to align with that goal. So the food I ate, the time I slept, and my schedule all changed to support my training goal once I decided to aim at running a qualifying time. I sacrificed Friday nights of staying out late with others to be home in bed by 10 so I could wake up for a training run at 5 on Saturday morning. I would rearrange my daily schedule to ensure there was always time to fit in weekday runs. I was more conscious of staying hydrated and eating food that would give me energy rather than whatever was easiest or right in front me. I saved money to spend on good shoes and running clothes that would help me feel light on my feet as I ran. I joined a running club where people to encourage me and push me beyond what I thought I was able to do surrounded me. There was not a single day that went past between January and May where I was not thinking about race day. The purpose of a lot of things I did in a day was to support my goal. And once I learned about the Boston Marathon bombing, my desire grew even stronger. It was a natural response to the tragedy.
Sounds like I was pretty wrapped up in running, right? So how did God meet me in it?
Well, I did not realize when I started training how much little things would change in my life as a result of the desire to qualify grew. As I saw these things begin to change, I became challenged by if I was allowing the same to happen in my life because of my desire to know God more. As a believer, my ultimate goal is to bring glory to God. So how strong is that desire in me? Are my eyes truly set on that as my ultimate goal? Do I see every aspect of my life changing and aligning to support that goal? Do I sacrifice things and rearrange my schedule to create time and space for Him? Is my desire to glorify God constantly growing and becoming stronger in response to seeing the brokenness around me? Am I taking steps to surround myself with people to encourage and support me in knowing God?
Are you actively “running the race with endurance” to know God and make Him known?
There are so many other things I can think of that I learned while training but I want to end with one last thing. I did not qualify. That was disappointing to put so much energy and effort into training and not see the prize. Yet, at the end of the race, I still stood with joy. Why? Because I know my hope is not in qualifying for a race. My hope and joy are rooted in Christ alone and He never disappoints. Our journey in knowing Him may not always be as clear as a marathon race route, but unlike the marathon, the prize is a guarantee. Those who place their faith in Jesus can experience Him daily and will one day get to rejoice in His presence for eternity with no more suffering. I don’t know about you, but that prize will always be worth changing any aspect of life.