“You’d be good at running,” He told me one early spring day my junior year in high school.

“I don’t think so,” I replied to my friend, remembering clearly the whining I used to do in PE and cheerleading practice when we had to run laps. But, I was feeling a bit bored and out of shape, and the peer pressure was hard to resist. Plus, there was something inside me that was deeply curious and longed to try running again. I agreed to meet my friend out at the track for a “trial run.” I was sure he would have second thoughts when he actually saw me run.

That Saturday, he conveniently forgot his stopwatch. So when I ran a 100 meter dash and he assured me I was fast, I reluctantly believed him and agreed to try out for track. The horrible truth came out at practice: I am not fast; far from it. My first timed mile was 15 minutes! I ended that trial out of breath and miserable, but I’ve never been a quitter. I guess I felt that agreeing to try out meant agreeing to stick with it for the season. So I continued to show up for practice and even go the extra mile (quite literally) by running early in the morning with my friend to try to get into shape.

I can’t say I had a dramatic turn around that season, or really even the next, though I did cut my mile time in half and found my pace at the middle of the pack. But the great thing about running is the way God used it to speak to me about my spiritual life.

Every time I started to feel weary in practice a song based from Hebrew 12:1 started reeling in my mind: “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us run, run, run, run with perseverance; let us run, run, run the race marked out for us; let us throw off everything that hinders, and let us run, run, run the race marked out for us.” That song started to have real meaning for me. I began to understand the battle that we face every day to get rid of the things that hold us back from the purposes before us.

My dad made a habit of pointing out the spiritual significance of physical things around us, or the spiritual meaning behind favorite stories. Because of that, it was second nature for me to consider running a physical representation of the struggles I faced spiritually. Only a few months prior to going out for track, I had given Jesus all of my heart and life and committed to following Him rather than myself. I was excited, but I was out of shape for the spiritual journey. He helped me understand through running what things like avoiding sin, longsuffering, and the joy of the finish meant from a big picture perspective. He taught me how to listen to a coach and be part of a team. He gave me the tools and gifts I needed and showed me how to practice using them so I would not lose them. As I grew stronger physically, I also grew stronger spiritually. I began to find victory in places I only once knew defeat.

One of my greatest lessons from running came years later when I was running cross country for my college team. My coach pulled me aside and told me, “Beth, you always slow down about three quarters of the way through the race, until you see the finish line. Then you give it your all and finish strong. But I don’t think you’ve ever run your best race, because you seem to give up mentally at the three fourths mark. If you could just push through that rough point and refuse to slow down, you would finish even better.” What an insightful mentor. I still marvel at how well that coach knew us and worked with us.

That day, the Holy Spirit convicted me that what my coach noticed about me in running also had spiritual significance in my prayer life. I would pray strong and believe God’s promises until I was about three fourths of the way through the trial. Then I would begin to doubt. I would stop praying as strongly and I would wonder if maybe I would ever see the other side of the trial. I confessed that I was weak in that area and I asked the Lord to help me.

My team-mates rallied around me, and in practice, they would encourage me if they saw me slowing down. I remember one friend put his hand on my back when I began to slow down as we were running the last leg of a long run up a steep hill. He didn’t push me, but just having his hand there gave me the strength I needed to keep my pace. It gave me a clear picture of what we are to be to one another in the body of Christ.

In Hebrews 3:13 we are told to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” Encouraging one another implies helping one another to keep up, to not fall back or grow weary in doing what is good. How beautiful it is when the body functions that way and we all allow one another room in our lives by giving and receiving encouragement.

My mind wanders to these stories today as I face a three quarter mark. Will I run with perseverance? Will I let the body of Christ rally around me? Will I look to fear or worry or doubt? Or will I look to Jesus who is the author and finisher of my faith?

Psalm 123

1 I lift up my eyes to you,
to you whose throne is in heaven.

2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he shows us his mercy.

3 Have mercy on us, O LORD, have mercy on us,
for we have endured much contempt.

4 We have endured much ridicule from the proud,
much contempt from the arrogant.

Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

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    CindyC said...

    Thanks for sharing, Beth. I pray the last quarter goes quickly and you maintain a good, steady stride, to be victorious up through the finish line.

  1. ... on February 5, 2010 at 9:33 PM  
  2. Beth said...

    Thanks, Friend. :) I'll keep you posted.

  3. ... on February 7, 2010 at 11:19 PM