Me? A Runner?
A few weeks ago I received a text from a friend that I had not seen in probably three years. She is a precious person, and I was so glad to hear from her. She explained that she had started a running group that meets on Saturday mornings around 6:30 am. They get together and discuss prayer requests, say a prayer, and then run. During the run, they catch up and discuss what is going on in their lives and improve their bonds with one another. She invited me to come and run with them that Saturday morning, saying it would be “No big deal, probably just 3-5 miles.”
Most of you know that I am all about being physically fit, but running is not my thing! Nothing about the details she invited me to sounded good except the part about seeing her and catching up on life. I did not particularly want to wake up that early on a Saturday morning. Being cold makes me very, very angry, and the weather had recently changed and become much cooler in the mornings. And even when I did run on a more regular basis, 2-3 miles was as far as I ever wanted to go.
But I really wanted to see my friend, so I agreed to go. When we got there, she introduced me to the other girls. One of them looked at me and said, “Wow! Are you a runner?” It took me a second to even realize she was directing the question at me. In a bit of shock, I replied, “Me?! No! I HATE to run!” We had a little laugh and then began.
We ran on a nice, scenic trail. The air was cool, but actually kind of nice. Every so often, there were natural breaks, like crossing a stream or crossing the road. We weren’t pressuring ourselves to perform in any certain way. We just talked and ran, talked and ran. I really never got tired or out of breath because I was enjoying it and being in the moment. We kept a good pace, and before we knew it we had run 5 ½ miles!
I was shocked! That was the farthest I had ever run besides the time I trained and ran a half marathon 13 years ago. That training was excruciating both physically and mentally. I ran every day for months and viewed it as a chore. I had a check off list of how many miles I had to run each day to build up to the 13 miles. I ran alone. I didn’t consider where the best place would be to go run. I just went outside and ran laps around my neighborhood. It was so boring, and I didn’t feel like any good was coming from it. After that race, I decided that there would be no more running for me. And these other people who loved running? I did not understand them either.
I started thinking about how similar this can be to Christianity. I have had many friends and family members throughout the years who shake their heads and declare, “Church just isn’t for me.” I have been in that place myself where Christianity felt more like a chore. Like one more thing on my To Do list. But maybe it isn’t that you don’t like “church.” Maybe you just don’t like the way you have always done “church” or observed it being done until this point.
Because when I really learned and allowed it to sink in how much Jesus loves ME and everything He gave up for ME, that was a life changer.
Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
No more working myself to death trying to prove something to somebody? Being invited to give up the burdens I carry around and allow myself to rest? Yes, please!
Luke 9:23-24 says, “…Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.”
It’s not at all about warming a pew on Sundays and doing some good things on a check list out of obligation or guilt. It is truly giving up the life we have always known. No more chasing the American Dream and all of the things this world has to offer, because the Lord knows that these temporary things just trap us into slavery. Instead, it is living one day at a time with the purpose of glorifying Him and doing the work He has sent us here to do.
What a mind shift. Matthew 7:13-15 says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Many will choose the wide path. It’s temporarily the easy way out. It is harder to give up everything we feel we can control and take His yoke instead. It requires trust and surrender. But once you do it, you will discover a way of truly living. And you might see that Christianity is exactly for you; maybe just not the version of it you have always known.