Tag Archives: obedience

Why I HATE Running (and do it anyway)

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I’ve always hated running. The mile run in gym class was my personal nemesis each and every year. I dreaded it so much. I can still hear my PE teacher, Mr. Reimers, shouting “I can crawl a mile in 15 minutes so you all better finish faster than that!” I always made it, but not by much! So no one was more surprised than me when I took up running four years ago. I still hate running, and I don’t think that will ever change. I do it anyway, and here’s why.

1. I’m an ugly runner. It’s truly painful to watch. (Don’t believe me? Check out the pics in Running with Jesus.) But God’s creation is beautiful. I don’t even listen to music while running anymore. Instead I pay attention to the smell of lilacs in full bloom, the trees swaying in the breeze, and the stars, which have always been one of my favorite things in all of God’s creation!

2. I hate how I feel during a run, but I love how I feel after a run. Truthfully, I feel like I might die during a run. My lungs burn, my legs feel like dead weights, and my joints ache with every pounding step. But I love the adrenaline rush when it is all over! I feel stronger. I feel calmer. Somehow stress seems to melt away during a run and after there’s a new sense of clarity.

3. I hate that I’m not good at it, but I love that I’m getting better. Running is so concrete and measurable. I can see the improvement as I run longer and improve my pace. There’s a new “PR” possible with every time out.

4. I hate that I can’t compete with other runners, but I love the encouragement runners offer one another. It is a beautiful example of what Christian community is supposed to look like. Throughout his letters, Paul repeatedly urged followers of Jesus to encourage one another, build each other up, to be of one mind, and to live in peace. This is exemplified in the running community. No fellow runner, regardless of their skill level, has ever demeaned me for mine. Instead, I’ve received nothing but encouragement. I’ve even experienced more skilled, faster runners, coming back to cheer me on as I struggle to finish a race. I pray the Christian community learns to follow the lead of runners!

5. I hate how challenging running is for me, but I love taking on the challenge. Nothing is quite as satisfying as accomplishing something you weren’t quite sure you could do. One of my favorite quotes is from the movie “A League of Their Own.” The coach of the Rockford Peaches looks at his star player who has just quit the team because it “got too hard” and says, “It’s supposed to be hard. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.” How true! There is little satisfaction in doing something that’s easy.

6. I hate that running forces me to realize just how out of shape I really am, but I love that running is helping me take better care of my body. God has given me an earthly body and asked that I take care of it. I’m going to be honest, I don’t do a good job of caring for my body. The worse the food is for you, the more likely it is to be one of my favorites! And I can easily spend an entire day (or week) just laying on the couch, watching countless hours of television. But caring for my body means eating foods that are good for me and moving to the point of sweating. Running encourages me to eat in a more healthy way and gets my behind off the couch. I want the energy and stamina to serve God for many years to come, which means I need to take good care of the body He has given me!

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7. I hate running but I love the way it has improved my spiritual life. I connect with Jesus when I run. I has done wonders for my prayer life because I’m in need of Jesus’ strength the entire time! I connect with God in a wonderful, unique, and inexplicable way when I’m running. Perhaps it is because running is often used as a metaphor for the journey of following Jesus. Psalms, Proverbs, and Isaiah speak of God’s strength allowing those who trust in Him to run and not grow faint or weary. Paul urges Jesus followers to run with purpose and determination in 1 Corinthians. In Hebrews, running is used as a way to encourage Christians to persevere even when life is difficult. Since I’m not planning on buying a sheep farm anytime soon, running is one of the Biblical analogies I can participate in and experience first hand.

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And that’s where the connection to identity comes into play. The more I experience my relationship with Jesus in real and tangible ways, the more I am able to understand that my identity is found in His love for me. The more I rely on Him to do things that are difficult and challenging, the more I experience that love in real and powerful ways. So I’ll likely always hate running, but I’ll keep doing it anyway because I’ll always love what it does for my life.

 

Jesus Keeps Messin’ with Me!

I’ve been reading a lot lately…a dangerous endeavor for sure. It’s been messing with me. Margaret Feinberg’s Wonderstruck and Scouting the Divine challenged me to look for God in the details of life. God’s divine intervention and handiwork are all around me if only I would open my eyes and become sensitive to it. Jen Hatmaker’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess has me questioning everything from what I eat to what I wear, what I watch to what I spend, and even where I spend it. I’m telling you, MESSIN’ WITH ME!

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But isn’t that what reading and writing are supposed to do? Shouldn’t my current way of thinking and acting be challenged as I gain new insights and knowledge? How else will I grow more like Christ? As I study God’s Word (and read other authors who have studied God’s Word), my heart should soften, my mind transform, and my behavior become more like Christ’s. If it doesn’t, what’s the point?

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Either I believe that what Jesus taught, and what he modeled, is really how he expects me to live or I don’t. Either I believe God’s Word is true or I don’t. Either I learn from the Israelites’ mistakes, heed God’s warnings and stay faithful or I suffer the consequences. Either I believe God is faithful to those who put their trust in Him (Daniel, Gideon, Elijah, and even Jesus) or I don’t. Either I believe God cares about the poor, the orphan, and the widow and calls me to do the same, or I turn away. Either I take “love your neighbor” seriously, or I don’t. Either I forgive others or I harbor bitterness and resentment. Either I step out in faith and risk looking a fool, or I stay in the boat, which might make sense with earthly eyes, but doesn’t allow me to walk on water.

Now those are nice things to say and easy things to think. Here’s the catch: if I actually believe they are true, then my behavior has to reflect that. I have to live life differently. And that is frightening. What if I ACTUALLY DO what the Bible says I should do? What if God really wants me to go through my closet and give away everything I don’t need – not  the “American” definition of need but “third world country” definition of need? Because let’s be honest, I don’t NEED six coats (and sadly that was just off the top of my head). And don’t even talk to me about or think about touching my shoe collection! (Read addiction.) What if God wants me to slow down instead of speed up? What if God wants me to turn off the television, or give it up completely? (GASP – as long as I can have it back before football season and fall sweeps!) What if God wants to use my natural tendency to compare as a way of making sure others have as much as I do instead of making sure I have more? What if?

And why does this all feel so scary, so crazy, and so threatening? I think it is because my identity is wrapped up in the very things God is asking me to let go of and sacrifice for Him. Let’s be honest, I’m a lot more like the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to follow Him and then walked away dejected when Jesus said, “Give all of your possessions to the poor” than I’d like to admit. It is comfortable and safe to have a lot of stuff. It is easy to ignore the “have nots” and forget that I’m one of the “haves”. Accumulation feels so good and denying myself doesn’t seem very appealing at all! It is nice to fit in and all the stuff and all the busyness help me create an identity, albeit a false and shaky one. You see, the food we eat, the entertainment we watch, the money we spend, the conveniences of life, the stress and busyness we participate in have all become idols. We worship and define ourselves by these things.

On the other hand, choosing to live how Jesus lived makes me stand out – and not necessarily in a good way! I might get criticized for making decisions that don’t make sense to the world, but store up treasures in Heaven.  And then Jesus comes along and says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23)” Jesus commands people who love him to love their enemies and to give to any one who asks (Luke 6). Anyone!? Really? Even the annoying neighbors upstairs?

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So Jesus, can’t I give to the poor and still have my vast shoe collection and keep my brand new genuine leather jacket? I don’t know the answer to that. (Actually I’m afraid I might and just don’t want to acknowledge the truth about my choices.) Jesus, can’t I just love the homeless from a distance, do I really have to actually touch them? Jesus, can’t I eat my $10.00 take out in peace, do I really have to consider those going hungry right now? I know, I’ll donate to the food pantry, that’s good enough right God? Jesus was pretty clear when He said, “That which you do unto the least of these, you do unto me (Matthew 25:40).” He’s onto all of the ways I don’t follow His lead. I’m certain it was with grief, frustration, and a mix of other emotions that He said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say (Luke 6:46)?” I’m afraid that I don’t often do what Jesus said I am to do.

I don’t know what all this means for my lifestyle and I certainly don’t know what it means for yours! I know I’m embarrassed to admit how much anxiety I feel from the thought of shutting off my cable. I’m ashamed to admit how many flips my stomach does at the thought of thinning out my shoe collection (obsession). I’m overwhelmed at the thought of actually getting close enough to care about “the least of these.” But I know what God commanded and I know it is worth wrestling with. I know that I want my identity to be found in Christ and not in the clothes I wear or the activities on my calendar. I know I want my treasures in Heaven and not in the deep recesses of the drawers and closets in my apartment. And how else will I grow if Jesus doesn’t MESS with me once in a while?

Discipline is not a 4-letter word

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Discipline. I don’t know many people who like this word, well, aside from maybe the parents of toddlers. It’s a ten letter word that we tend to treat like it has only four. Discipline feels restricting, legalistic, and boring – depriving us from the adventure of life and the ability to do whatever we want to do. Deprivation. Perhaps one of the only words we like even less than discipline.

But what if discipline doesn’t actually lead to deprivation at all? What if this is one of the great lies of the enemy? What if the lack of discipline is really what deprives us of the life we dream of having?

The truth is that I’ve never felt more free than during the times in my life that I’ve been the most disciplined. And the truth is that lack of discipline has never led to greater excitement or fullness of life. Rather it has always led to sloth, laziness, and incredible waste of my time, talents, and resources. The “freedom” of lack of discipline seems to lead to NCIS marathons, eating entire packages of Oreos, and leaving a permanent indentation of my behind in the couch. I end up watching others live life instead of living it for myself. Still, over and over again I find myself buying into one of the greatest lies – that discipline is a drag and a stealer of joy. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of buying into this lie. I’m ready to live according to the truth, so I’m flipping the script.

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I’m choosing to believe that discipline really does lead to freedom, and joy, and adventure, and blessing beyond measure. I’m choosing to follow my calling instead of my emotions. When I’m tired, I’m choosing to go on a walk instead of taking a nap. When I feel like being alone, I’m going to choose into community. When I feel like eating a dozen Oreos, I’m going to choose something healthy (or at least eat only 2 or 3). When I feel like all that matters is meeting my own selfish desires and felt needs, I’m going to choose to deny myself in order to live for Christ. I’m actually choosing deprivation – deprivation from the things that keep me from the best things. I’m depriving myself from reality television so I can go live my own God-given reality. I’m depriving myself from junk food so I can receive true nourishment. I’m depriving myself of lazy Saturdays alone in my own little world so I can receive the blessings of serving and reaching out to others. Yep, I’m flipping the script because discipline doesn’t actually lead to deprivation, at least not the kind that we think it does. And isn’t this really what Lent and the Easter season are all about?

The truth is that discipline leads to deprivation of the things that actually harm us and leads to freedom to pursue that which is best for us. Discipline is a gift from God actually. It’s a gift that leads to holiness. Holiness is greater than any indulgence we think we need or deserve. And what about those days when discipline feels like an impossible task to achieve? Like making the choice to follow God seems nearly impossible? When we think of the word “discipline” we tend to think of being punished as a small child. First of all, discipline from God is important to receive with an open and humble spirit. However, more often discipline is really about self-control and obedience. 1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” And if God commands us to be holy, then we are capable of living out that command. The trick? We can only do it in His strength, never in our own. As God’s chosen children, we must obey His commands, demonstrate the self-control to choose discipline, and ask our Father for help when we are weak. The great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden said, “Discipline yourself so others don’t have to.” Choosing into discipline that looks like obedience and self-control prevents the discipline of God humbling and teaching. But even when we need that kind of discipline, it is out of a love relationship. With God it is always about relationship.  And that’s DEFINITELY the message of Easter – the great lengths God went to in order to restore relationship with us!