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Spiritual Athleticism

Yesterday I had run six-and-a-half miles by 7:00 a.m. and it felt great.

 

Today I was still struggling to get myself out of bed and begin with the day at seven.

 

I am not by nature a high-energy person. I enjoy being at home. I like to have days with nothing on the agenda. Sitting is my favorite pastime. Nearly every task and obligation that line my daily schedule requires grit and a firm self-talk as I remind myself to get off the couch and do something with my life. Not at all because I don’t like the things that fill my life, I simply enjoy quiet days to myself as I sip coffee and sit.

 

Races motivate me. Though I complain and whine about having to train, though I drag my feet all the way out the door every single time I run, I continue to sign up to run in races. I continue to pay money so that I can run. I am not fast, I am not breaking any records, but I love running in races. I love the adrenaline, I love the camaraderie, I love the new courses. Mostly I love the satisfaction of completing something that I had for years seen as insurmountable. I love that I did something hard.

 

But perhaps the greatest reward isn’t the swell of joy that comes at the finish line. Perhaps it is the determination an upcoming race gives me to get outside and run. I train for weeks ahead of time for races. More often than not the daily runs aren’t fun. The weather is rarely ideal, the time is hard to come by, and my feet feel like a hundred pounds each as I try to get myself through a couple of miles. I would rarely run if I didn’t have the motivation of an upcoming race (that I paid good money for) to spur me on.

 

We’re all running a race. A continual race that stretches on for days. Years actually. Morning after morning we wake up to another race day. We wake up to our course stretching out before us. This race isn’t easy. There are hills that climb upwards for what seems forever. There are obstacles in the pathway. There are fellow competitors who are less than enjoyable companions. And the finish line seems a thousand miles ahead. The race seems to go on forever. And it will, in fact. Until the day we die.

 

Our lives are the most significant races we will ever run.

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How would we live our lives if we actually believed this? What would change about our daily lives if we viewed each day as another leg in the journey? How would we approach our tasks and assignments for the day? How would we treat our fellow racers? Maybe I would finally have a greater motivation to get off the couch, lace up my shoes, and get outside.

 

The author of Hebrews exhorts us to throw of the things that entangle us, that weigh us down, to go forward in perseverance. Lighten up and run hard. Paul reminds us that our lives are a race – and to run them as if we were going after the prize. There is an athleticism that we are called to pursue on our spiritual journey. We need tenacity, endurance, a willingness to push hard and run forward.

 

It won’t always be easy or fun. But the elation that comes at the end of a hard race will be ours when we reach the finish line. May our words echo those of Paul’s when he reached is final days of the run: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

 

Run hard, don’t give up.

 

Onward and upward.

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