Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why do I run?

I wanted to share a blog my wife wrote yesterday about running, purpose and life on her blog - The Brick House. I hope it will encourage and challenge you.

Yesterday morning I met my friend Mary for a run through the streets of our beautiful Uptown neighborhood. Mary is training for a half marathon at the end of the month, and occasionally she cuts her distance and pace and indulges by running (or walking) with me. Mary is an inspiration to me in many ways, including simply the fact that she’s running a half marathon, given her history and former life, but yesterday she offered some sage advice that I’d been needing to hear.

As we were running - actually, I think I had to stop to walk at this point, but you get the picture - I was talking to Mary about how training is going for her big race. She shared that her training group has been one of the greatest encouragements she could ask for. I thought that was interesting given that her group is all women. I feel like in general getting a group of women together instantly breeds the potential for gossip, drama, tears, etc. But Mary said that this group is so encouraging, urging one another on, sharing stories from their past, celebrating victories and having each other’s backs. She then shared some words of wisdom that spoke directly to my heart, because they have more to do with life than with running.

Mary said that it is so important when you’re training for a race, or just running in general, not to compare yourself to those you are running with. You face different obstacles, have a different history, and are running with different goals in mind. Mary runs to give glory to God for saving her out of a really destructive lifestyle. She said she doesn’t compare herself to the other ladies she runs with. It wouldn’t be beneficial for anyone. With her focus set intently on her goal, all her training group will ever be is an encouragement because that is all she allows it to be.

Then (this is such a GOD thing), Mary forwarded me an email from her training group leader, sent yesterday after we ran, here are a couple of quotes that struck me as well.

  • “People run for a lot of different reasons. You've got to understand why you do it, and understand that the person next to you has different goals and incentives. Work on meeting YOUR goals--you might find out that the person next to you is aimed in an entirely different direction than you--and that's ok--running is for everyone to find their own happiness within.”
  • “Be proud to be the runner you are. We all exist on a HUGE continuum. There will always be people ahead of us. There will always be people behind us. “

Both of these nuggets of truth resonated with me. Here’s the deal: if I don’t know why I run, I am ALWAYS going to compare myself to others. And, as Mary’s trainer mentioned, there will ALWAYS be people ahead of me.

I am competitive by nature, and have been blessed with gifts in certain areas that allowed me to excel in most anything I tried growing up – school, dance class, sports, etc., so I never really worried about being competitive; I was always near the front of the pack or the top of the list. However, when it comes to running, well….it just doesn’t come as naturally to me. I really have to try. If my goal when I run is to be the fastest or the best or whatever, I am never going to be satisfied. Because I will never be the fastest or best, I could continually be disappointed. However, if I run for the fun of it, to be in shape, or like Mary, to glorify my God, then there is no disappointment to be had. Sure, there might be days were I run further or faster than others, but what pressure is relieved when I acknowledge that I am not doing something for me, but for God!

This message goes right along with our Vintage Women Bible Study material. Last week we talked about insecurities being one thing keeping us from recognizing and living in the joy that we have been chosen by God. One of the biggest struggles I have in regards to insecurity is feeling like I don’t stack up against some of the great examples of Godly women that surround me. I spend too much time comparing myself, thinking “I should be more like her. She has it all together”. Or “She sure does seem to be in touch with the Lord. I bet she does X,Y and Z. How much happier God must be with her than me!” This also applies to people I work with. I sometimes struggle when coworkers get praise when I don’t or get opportunities that I don’t. Aren’t those awful ugly thoughts? Maybe it’s too much for me to share them so publicly, but, they represent things that have gone through my mind, so I might as well put them out there.

In this week’s study, we are learning to be fully satisfied by Jesus, who is our Bread from Heaven, Living Water, our Sustainer. Being completely satisfied with Him and in His plan for me will free me from feeling like I must try to prove anything to anyone. And if I am focused on doing the work or running the race or living the life I am called to live, then I won’t spend time comparing myself to others. I will also be able to celebrate with them for their achievements and encourage them during low points as we all strive to run our race well. I won’t have time or energy to focus on negative thoughts or comparisons, which represent a very outward and worldly focus as because I will be keeping my gaze on the prize which is before me.

I am so thankful for all the women in my life who encourage and inspire me. This week I am praying that I would stop comparing myself, that I would live in the freedom of knowing I am chosen, and that I would continue to recognize my purpose. For me, that purpose is ultimately to give thanks and praise and glory to the One who created me in everything that I do. I pray that I would soak up and live confidently in that Truth, and would become so focused on my relationship with the Lord and my desire to love and serve Him that I can only be happy for and encourage those around me.

Just a quick list of a few questions I’ve pondered these past days:
- Why do I run (or do anything)? What is my purpose?
- What are my goals?
- Do my attitude, my thoughts, my actions, indicate that I am confident in my goal or purpose? If not, how can I change that?

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