Monday, September 13, 2010

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Why did the chicken cross the road? To run in Butler County’s Project Prom 5K race. Well at least I did, on Saturday. My strategy was simple: just keep running. I could run any speed I wanted, I just couldn’t stop. I knew if I ever stopped it would be so hard to regain my momentum. And the temptation to stop is so appealing when it is hot and hilly. But I didn’t stop; I finished the race (in honor of all 38 year old women with three children, the youngest of whom is 9 mos). So incredibly glad I did.

Mostly because I am metaphor girl. I can relate anything to anything, and running really seems to relate to the life of faith. What I love about both disciplines (running and following Jesus) is that the equipment is light. To be in shape, all you need is a good pair of running shoes. You don’t need fancy equipment. You don’t need to join an expensive club. You just have to step outside. As Nike says, “Just do it.” Living as a disciple of Jesus is really the same way. It’s good to have a Bible, so you have a ready reference for how to’s. And it’s also good to have a community that encourages you in your walk. But you don’t need a theology degree. You don’t have to become a monk. You just have give yourself to Jesus and follow the little nudges you encounter throughout the day.

It’s so easy when you are a runner to get discouraged, distracted, or waylaid by circumstances beyond your control. I’m very thankful for my sweet husband who asks me every night if I want to run the next morning. In some ways his simple question keeps me accountable. However, quite honestly most mornings I don’t want to get out of bed. My body often feels heavy laden, and I just want a little more sleep. What I have found, though, is that if I will push through, the experience of running does in fact get easier. The difficulty lessons, and the benefits begin showing up. For instance, I seem to have more energy throughout the day. My clothes start fitting better. I can eat what I want! And eventually, my body wants to get up and run, desiring the activity rather than fighting it. So just push through!

The same is true for the life of faith. Reading the Bible and attending a faith-based group regularly is so hard. Especially as a college student when there are so many other things that you could be doing, so many other things that seem to be more fun and fulfilling. But pressing through is definitely worth it. Eventually the effort pays off. Don’t try to be perfect; don’t try to always get it right; don’t try to always sound super spiritual. Instead, just keep doing what you know to do, regardless of how well you think you are doing. Let Jesus take care of the rest. Remember how the book of Galatians talks about the “fruit of the Spirit?” As you allow God’s Spirit room in your life to grow, to be nurtured and cultivated, an amazing thing actually happens: The fruit of that cultivation begins to show! It’s not that we spend our time trying to force love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to show up in us. Whenever we do that the results seem strained and fake. But when we make room in our lives for spending time with God, reading His word, and hanging out with His people, those fruits just automatically begin to show up. God brings them forth from us—we just provide hospitable dirt for them to grow in. Eventually doing the God thing first isn’t hard anymore, and everything else gets more manageable too. Because it’s no longer our strength making it happen, but His strength coming through us. So just push through!

Truly the secret to finishing in a life of running and a life of faith is not very complicated. Paul puts it this way: “Let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). The secret to finishing the race set before us is a little word called “perseverance.” Last Saturday there were lots of people in that race, including teenagers who started ahead of me, but then finished behind me. It’s not that I’m a great runner; I’m not. It’s not that I’m a fast runner; I’m not. Even though most of them were faster than me, they stopped running; however, with my turtle pace I kept going. It’s just a simple strategy that carried me through: don’t stop running. I could run as slow as I wanted, I could strip off extra clothes if I wanted, I could breathe as heavy as I wanted, I just couldn’t stop. It wasn’t pretty; but I finished. And finishing is all that matters.

So I want to encourage you this semester: Do the God thing first, and persevere in doing it. You will have all kinds of reasons not too. You will face all kinds of distractions and discouragement. Do don’t give up and don’t give in. Even if you fall away for a little while, come back. You will be so glad you did. Make up your mind now to win the race that Jesus has set before you. The more you run with Jesus, the easier it will be. So don’t give up; just push through!

This is me trusting,