Wonder if you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling? You aren’t alone.
Running is my thang.
I crave it. I live for that sweet spot of burning muscles and easy cool downs. Without running, my week just isn’t the same. Like a moth to the flame, I am drawn to the open trail and roads winding away from all things tech and to-do and mommy-ish.
I haven’t always been this way. Sure, I have been in dance-cheerleading-softball the majority of my life, but running? HA. I distinctly remember laughing at the track team after school as they dragged their sweaty selves around the oval track of hot, black rubber, while I practiced stunts in the cool air conditioning of the wrestling room (though, in my defense, I did have to brave the risk of ringworm from those sweaty mats.)
“GOOD LUCK, track team. I’m sure that self-toture feels incredible. Enjoy.”
Once I entered into college, I put on a “few” pounds. I ate like I was still as active as I was in high school, and it showed (all my freshman fifteen club members, raise your hands). Frustrated and fed up, I threw on some old kicks and workout clothes, thinking I would tackle a short run in my neighborhood. Well, the joke was on me because I was sucking air by three blocks.
(Above: Actual footage of me running. Doesn’t everyone look like a supermodel with long, flowing locks? #nofilter)
Have you ever wondered if you are even the person you thought you were? I mean, years of high energy sports and activities, and I couldn’t make it three blocks. I may as well lay down and die at this point because my life means nothing, right?
Okay, okay…that may be a little dramatic. But I was beyond frustrated! Not one to be easily beat by a challenge, I reached out to my good friend who did, in fact, run regularly in cross country during high school.
“Listen. I need help and I need it bad. Can you help me?”
He said yes, as any good friend would, and dedicated himself to train me. He ran with me every day, and even shifted to nights when the temps of summer days threatened to fry us. He taught me about form, stride, breath control and, most importantly, friendship. We talked about life, frustrations, struggles, and faith. Our little routine was more than running– it was LIFE.
After weeks of hard work I finally completed a path through my small hometown on my own, weaving in and out of side streets and dodging dogs and potholes. It felt great, conquering the giant that was “running.” I didn’t let the challenge become my undoing. Instead, I saw my inability to run as a indicator of an area I needed to work on, and I tackled it with focus and a friend.
“Waaaait. Is this a secret push for everyone to join “Couch to 5k?!”
I promise it isn’t! Stick with me, friends. Just like my lame skills in running were a warning sign for me that something was “off” in my body, conviction is our warning sign as Christians. That gut-check when we lose our temper or lose our sense of hope is God telling us “something ain’t right.”
Am I saying the inability to run was a warning sign from God? No…but maybe? For me, it was an indicator that the life I had lived in the past– active, healthy, balanced– wasn’t the life I was currently living. God was getting my attention for change through my physical inadequacy. The lack in our spiritual life should set off warning bells for us to change accordingly. If we don’t change? Well, we will eventually lose our faith. And we gotta have faith. (Thank you, George Michael.)
How can you tell when God is convicting you to change? You can look to the fruit in your daily life and know if something is amiss. How are those fruits of the Spirit lookin’? (Those can all be found in Galatians 5:22-25) Are you thrown into self-hatred while looking at social media? Are you rattled by every day drama, or do you stay cool as a cucumber? Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, or falling asleep at night? These are all warning signs from God that change is needed.
Everyone needs focus and a friend.
So how do we fix it? When faith is faltering, when our passion is waning, how do we begin to realign our priorities? When it was time to get serious about running, I did two things–
1.) I focused.
I used self-control, a fruit of the Spirit, to gain focus and determination. God has given us control over one person (and sadly, one person only): ourselves. Lack of self-control is never an excuse for Christians! We possess all the self-control we could ever need because God supplies us with an unending supply through the Holy Spirit that lives inside us!
What did tapping into self-control look like for me? I began to organize my schedule to make time for running. I didn’t give up when the weather got hot or my muscles were sore. I no longer took a nap when I should have been running. I made choices for myself that reflected the change I wanted to experience. We must be self-controlled to keep our faith strong and healthy!
2.) I enlisted the help of a friend.
God gives us real-life, sister-from-another-mister, we-wear-pink-on-Wednesdays friends as one of our greatest tools to keep the faith! A friend who will encourage or redirect us is a gift. Someone who has “been there, done that” and who is willing to teach and guide and love you is powerful and essential.
But they aren’t the only help. God sent us a friend called Holy Spirit. He is our guide and wisest counsel available to us. He teaches and encourages us, and because He lives inside us, He knows our struggles better than anyone! Pray when you feel your faith slipping, and Holy Spirit will run alongside you while you learn to run better and become stronger.
Bottom line? We can turn to self-help books and secular podcasts for the world’s solutions, or we can ask God what we need to do and do it! There is no challenge you are facing God cannot help you through. Keeping your faith is as easy as surrendering your plans and letting God lead instead. He will show you how to adjust your schedule to make time for Him, how to approach a tough conflict, and even ::gasp:: tell you what to eat to stay healthy (for realz.) It is amazing the power we have in God!
What has God been showing you lately about keeping your faith? What tools are you using that are helping the most?
This is the 1st article of a 3-part series, “Lessons I’ve Learned as a Runner.” Find the other two HERE and HERE.