I ran a race, an 8-mile (10k) race, last Thursday. Over 30,000 others also ran in the 40th anniversary of the Dallas YMCA Turkey Trot. Thanks to my friend, Al, (on the right) I was able to finish. He was in better shape than I, and was able to keep a nice steady pace. I was breathing hard after two miles and just kept pushing while Al just kept cruising. He was very gracious and hung back so we could finish together. My son, Christopher, was wise. He watched the race with his new dog, Gorby. I learned a lot from training for this physical race that also applies to running the spiritual race.
1. Every pound I lost in training (and I took off 25 of them) was a pound I didn’t have to lug around with me and a pound that my heart did not have to support with blood and oxygen. Hebrews 12:1 admonishes: “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles . . .” Sin, like fat, adds weight so fast and takes so long to overcome that it doesn’t seem right. When it comes to sweets and carbohydrates, I can resist anything but temptation! I resent having to say “no” to pleasurable things. When I’m overeating, like sinning, I’m not thinking of the consequences, but rather the immediate pleasure. My long term goal is to lose another 25 pounds over the next year, about 2 pounds a month. I’m not sure that will be very easy, but it will help to think of them as 25 pounds that hinder.
2. A group of high school girls from Plano took a detour through MacDonald’s, complaining that it was too cold and they were tired. Another lesson comes out of the next part of Hebrews 12:1: “. . . and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” It was tempting to cross over a short connecting strip to join the faster runners coming back, thus eliminating a couple miles of the course, or maybe following the girls in for an egg MacMuffin and a Coke. Sometimes fatigue and pain mean to stop and rest, but other times (and this was one of them), the thing to do is to push through it. That’s where Al really helped me keep the pace through my puffing.
3. When I kept my focus on the road ahead, even the uphill part, I was able to lean into it and persevere. When I fixed my mind on the finish line, I was better able to push on. Hebrews 12:2 advises, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus . . .” which is a discipline in itself with so many things to distract. It was easy to fix my eyes on Al because he was always just a little ahead of me and would slow down every once in a while so we could stay together. Hearing him cheer me on, reminding me that I was doing well and could do it, helped me “not grow weary and lose heart.”
4. Hebrews 12:7 reminds us to “endure hardship as a discipline.” I learned that to discipline your body for a race requires regular daily and weekly routine over months of time. Some folks who prepare for only a week or two before the race, usually pull muscles, develop shin splints or toss their breakfast along side the road. Regular, daily routine integrated with a lifestyle regimen is the way to do it. Long term, lifestyle, routine. Al and I are going to start next month to train for a marathon race in December 2008.
5. A race like the Turkey Trot requires focus. Participation cannot be aimless and at the same time satisfying. Paul must have been thinking of this idea when he said, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly; . . . I beat my body and make it my slave so that . . . I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:26-27). And what prize: to be able to finish well, with honor. Many others finished ahead of me; many behind me. But I finished in the best time I could manage.
Now I understand a little more about why the biblical writers use the metaphor of a race to describe the life of spiritual discipline and focus. May I do better at both in the future.