A little more than a year ago, I started to run again.
I was a "serious" runner all through high school and college and even trained for a half-marathon the year after college (my aunt passed the day before the race, so I didn't get to actually run it).
But between going back to grad school, getting married, moving to Texas, and selling our treadmill, the running became sporadic...then almost non-existent.
On Labor Day of last year, though, we got Jason a much-needed laptop, and with it came a free iPod. He already had one, so this one was all mine and, along with new New Balances, provided part of the motivation I needed to get running again. Who doesn't love tweaking their running playlist and jogging along in cushy new shoes?
Another part of the motivation was peer pressure, albeit indirect. It seemed as if everyone was running. It was all over the blogs, all over campus, even being connected with your spiritual journey. And, truthfully, there seemed to be a little judging going on, a bit of a disdainful attitude toward non-runners from some. So my normally non-competitive nature caved to that small Monica Gellar side of me.
I chose a motivational verse (Psalm 119:32--I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free), grabbed my new gear and hit the pavement.
As expected, running was challenging, but I'd been there before. At least I thought so. After the first few short runs in the still-hot Texas September, I was having full-blown asthma attacks. What?! My allergies have been awful since moving here, but the asthma had been gone since college. Still, I persevered.
I thought I could just gradually add mileage, which is what I had done when training five years ago--adding on a mile here, a mile there with very little problem. Didn't work. So I tried slowly increasing the amount of time I was running versus walking. Not so much. Got an inhaler that only helped after, not before. I was hitting a wall every. single. time.
Things got a little better during the winter months because I was forced to run on the treadmill (not enough after-work daylight, and I don't run outside by myself in the dark). I was able to increase my distance to a whopping four miles, but I hit the asthma wall there as well. Sidenote: I'm not a huge fan of running on the treadmill, but there is an additional hitch--there are only two at our apartment office, so competition is fierce.
When my pal Shelley (see previous 200 posts) got engaged, I had even further motivation--to get in shape for the wedding. So I just kept on trying to run. All year, I've been running consistently but seeing hardly any progress as far as my distance and abilities are concerned.
The thing is, I started to feel guilty about this--about not being able to breathe, about walking an extra mile instead of running it, about walking the whole freaking time some days instead of running. It seems ridiculous, but I think part of it had to do with equating running with our walk with Christ.
You see this throughout the Psalms and Proverbs and even in Hebrews, but Paul is the running king of scripture (Run in such a way as to get the prize; I wanted to be sure I was not running my race in vain; et al). I think, subconsciously, I was equating my failure in running with failure to run with Christ. Thanks a lot, Paul. ;)
Anyway, there was also another element--I seemed to be failing to run in life as well. I looked around and saw friends and acquaintances buying houses, starting a family, staying home with children, getting published, leading a ministry, saving for retirement. And, let me tell ya, for the most part, none of those life things are happening for us right now.
And that's when it hit me: God just has us at a different pace.
Most days, I am so excited about what God is doing in our life, but there are times when I find myself sprinting to catch up with others--crunching the numbers to see if a house is doable, wondering if we've made the right decision to postpone children, being tempted to sign up for something I know I shouldn't commit to--and, just as surely as if I'd been running in an orange-alert 100-degree Texas summer day, I start having an asthma attack. Except it's not physical--it's emotional and even spiritual.
In this type of attack, my faith wavers; I lose patience; it becomes harder to trust God; I start feeling as if I'm aggressively charting my own course and not patiently walking on paths He has established. Things are so much better when I just let Him set the pace--running or walking.
Just as there are times when I breathe more easily when I'm walking instead of running, I also can breathe easier when I am keeping pace with God. So I started looking into walking in the Bible, and I was blown away!
There are tons of passages that talk about walking faithfully with God and walking in obedience to Him. Less metaphorically, Jesus constantly walked with His disciples while traveling, taking those opportunities to teach them and others. It would've been a little harder for Him to carry on those conversations if they'd been running instead! ;)
Just as we see verses about running, we also see them about walking--in the Psalms (Make me walk in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it), Proverbs (I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble), and even from Paul (Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God).
Will I still be running? Absolutely. But I'll also be listening to my body when it tells me it's time to walk, and I'm determined to not feel guilty about that. Just as I won't feel guilty when God tells me it's time to walk spiritually. I know there will be times when He'll have me sprinting, too, but if I'm letting Him set the pace, I can trust that I won't get out of breath.
Now I just need a new pair of running shoes. :)