The Rhythm of Running

The Rhythm of Running

Philippians 3:12-14

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Hebrews 12:1-3

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 

This series is Pursuit, and it’s about spiritual rhythms. Our ministry staff has been working hard to prepare resources that can help facilitate the good work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of those in our church family.

It’s hard to speak for everyone, but my definition of spiritual rhythms would be actions we intentionally take to be with Jesus which build a foundation for the Christian life. The things that we will talk about over the coming weeks are scripture, prayer, service, community, generosity, service, and rest. Within these general topics, we will dive deeper into some specific practices like intercessory prayer, lectio divina, and sabbath.

Ideally, everyone would contemplate each topic and be able to build a repertoire of rhythms that they do at regular intervals. These rhythms would be practices which create space for greater intimacy with God, mature them spiritually, and better equip them for Kingdom work. The range of rhythms would vary from person to person, and different Christians who happen to practice the same habit may practice them at different intervals. The idea is not to write a prescription for the good Christian, but instead to ask each person to take intentional steps to commune with their Creator.

To illustrate this, I want to tell you about my experience running.

I ran regularly for the first time in college. I realized that I did my best processing while running laps around the soccer field. I started running farther when I was doing an internship one summer far away from my regular responsibilities. I had a lot more time on my hands, so I challenged myself to running 100 miles in a month.

When we moved to Oregon in the summer of 2016, I would occasionally go out and stretch my legs. It was something that I would engage in whenever it was convenient, when I wanted a challenge, or when I felt myself getting a little weak and out of shape.

It was November of 2018 that I really started to run. I had spent a couple of months in a funk and I needed something to get me moving. I got into the habit of rolling out of bed and going to the gym to run a couple of miles on the treadmill. It was something I did at that time to deal with the way I was feeling – heavy, tired, and sad. Through that winter I felt sustained by these few miles on weekday mornings. I didn’t always want to, but the key was giving into the habit.

In the spring of 2019 I started to build up my mileage. I invested in good shoes, I started to run outside. I realized that just because running wasn’t getting me through a hard time anymore didn’t mean it wasn’t doing great things for my mental and physical health. I kept going.

That summer, I entered into a really busy season. I started only going out to run just once or twice a week. My body really struggled to do so much intermittently. The rhythms of my life interfered with the physical practices, and not only did it throw me off a schedule it started to actually make them harder.

In the fall, I really thought I didn’t have time. I was going from work to school and just didn’t have time in the day to change, run the kind of miles I wanted, and get cleaned up again. So I took a couple of months off.

I started running again in the winter, and I realized how much I had missed it. I regretted those months off and realized that, even though I got busier, I probably could have given myself a little more grace instead of just stopping. I didn’t have to go run five miles every day, just getting out there for two would have done wonders for my physical and mental health compared with doing nothing.

I got stronger, and I started to once again build mileage as winter turned into spring. I started to try different tactics, like speed runs and track workouts rather than exclusively going out and pushing for miles. I revisited the familiar feeling of not wanting to but getting out there again anyway.

Often, it feels fulfilling and invigorating at the end. Some days it does feel like a burden more than a joy, and sometimes I feel really tired afterwards. Overall, at the end of the week, I’m grateful for each mile I ran. That was a mile where I got to process, pray, build endurance, and connect with my community.

Maybe you’ve picked up on some of the implications, but I really believe that the parallel between running and spiritual rhythms is a sound one. As with running, the spiritual rhythms that I engage in (prayer, Scripture, rest, community) have been uncomfortable and sporadic at first. I have to build endurance for them. I have to push through not enjoying some of them and evaluate afterwards the fact that they actually made me feel better than before. With running as with spiritual rhythms, I am tempted to throw them away when I get busy and tired. Yet, with running as with spiritual rhythms, engaging makes me stronger and better equipped to handle the challenges of life.

I love running. It is hard but it makes such a positive difference in my life. Those miles facilitate for me solitude, silence, prayer, self-examination, sabbath, and overall intimacy with God. But I recognize it is not the only way to facilitate intimacy with God. For example, painting might do for someone else what running does for me. Spiritual rhythms are not one size fits all.

I encourage you, as we go through this series, to build your own range of rhythms. They might be different now than they were twenty years ago. They might be really uncomfortable at first. They might end up being hard to continue through the turmoil of life. As one who has done some hard work in the realm of both running and rhythms, please believe me when I say that it is worth the effort.

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