I love running. The fact that I even profess that has come as something of a surprise to me however. I have never been what you might call a natural athlete, always the curvy girl (or downright fat in my university days), however I have always been fairly active and enjoyed the great outdoors.
Exercise and I have had a somewhat tumultuous relationship in the last 30 years, with spurts of activity before my wedding and after the birth of my first son when it was clear that breastfeeding and healthy eating was not going to get me back to my pre pregnancy state. However I really got into fitness and running in a big way last Summer and have been particularly committed to getting fit in 2015. Taking the obligatory pre-fitness regime photographs was painful, but I was ready and raring to go with 5k runs, regular workouts and a moderate nutrition plan all mapped out for the next few months. However only a few weeks in I was already getting despondent. I couldn’t understand why the scales still weren’t telling me something different, why my clothes didn’t feel any looser yet. Worse was yet to come, when after three months I still didn’t feel that there was anywhere near a significant enough change in my appearance to match the discipline and effort that I had put in.
My CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) and hubby, Dave, was super supportive, telling me how great I looked and how he could really see a difference. He reassured me that I had shaved inches off my face, arms, back and hips (that troublesome mum tum appears to be the last thing to go!), but the most vital thing he kept telling me was that I was embarking on a lifestyle change, not a four week wonder diet to shed weight only to regain it shortly after. Dave also reminded me that if anything, I was likely to put on weight initially during my fitness programme as I was asking my muscles to hulk around my excess weight on all these runs and work outs, therefore the muscles would have to bulk up to accommodate the additional load. In time, when they were larger and stronger, and burning more calories, these muscles would then start to burn the fat away and begin to reduce in size and elongate, giving me the strong, toned physique I was longing for.
I think that our journey through life can feel so much like a workout programme, especially when we are walking with God and testing new boundaries and developing new skills. It is only when we are physically pushed that we learn, grow and strengthen. Our muscles must first bear weight and pressure in order to grow. During the workout itself the tissues will endure injury and tearing in order to knit back together and grow larger and stronger.
When we are going through tough times at home or at work, or simply turning away from our old ways, the physical pain and despondence we feel can seem unbearable and endless, and everything within us screams run back to the beginning, to the familiar ways, to our old self. God promises that He will never give us more than we can bear, (1 Corinthians 10;13-14) but he also tells us that living a faithful life is like running an endurance race. There is no sprint finish, we must run, and run, and run, through traumatic childhoods, through failed relationships, through abuse, through addictions, through dysfunctional families.
“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 NLT
When I run uphill, my legs burn incessantly as my muscles bunch together and force my legs to continue pounding the tarmac. It is only my sheer will and determination that stops me from walking, because I know the elation that awaits as I reach the summit and start to go downhill. Ah yes, the stretch is my favourite part of running uphill. When your legs are screaming at you to stop, your lungs are burning and the sweat is running down your brow, you suddenly start to descend. As gravity pulls you faster, the cool breeze fans your face, rushing into your thankful lungs and your legs stride out, stretching and elongating your bunched up muscles with each footfall.
In life, faith in God is the driving force that will see us up and over that obstacle. Faith in the fact that Jesus loves you, He died for you and He is with you every single step of the way will push you through the pain barrier, help you to press in and run on with endurance to reach the summit. And then, when you have fought with all your might to get there, God’s abundant, immeasurable grace is like the gravity that will remove the pressure, ease your struggles and speed up your journey.
God knows where He wants to take you in your life, but He also knows that you need to do some learning and growing on the way, and the only way that our faith muscles grow is by bearing weight. If you are under pressure today, carrying a heavy burden or desperately trying to run from a past, a sin or an addiction that keeps catching up with you, don’t despair. God sees you clenching your fists and pressing on, and He will guide you and strengthen you as your muscles begin to repair and rebuild during the uphill struggle. But the most beautiful miracle awaits you on the other side of that hill. Rest assured that when you reach the summit post workout your once flaccid faith muscle will now be strong, and your toned limbs will be able to stretch further than you could possibly imagine in to all the things of God that are awaiting in your future.
” I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.
So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.”
Philippians 3:12-16 The Message
The best is yet to come. Stay strong my friend, as a son or daughter of the King you are in training for reigning.