I have always run – for as long as I can remember I would run instead of walk. This was a source of contention at home; I have memories of being asked, “Why can’t you just walk?”
Why run? I don’t know why, but I run.
I don’t run well. My brother, who was an avid runner in his youth, would try to coach me, “You’re landing on the outside of your foot too heavily! You need to balance out your stride! You can go faster! You can go farther!” I never did improve much, but I kept on running.
All these years later, my stride is still imperfect (testified of by my running shoes that wear out unevenly), I am still slow, but I can go far. I’m still running! I run poorly, my shoes are worn badly, but I keep running.
I scour the Internet, magazines, newspapers, and TV programs for tips on how to keep running as I continue to grow older. There’s all kinds of advice to be found: wear the right shoes, don’t run too far, run farther, stay hydrated, don’t run in the early morning, don’t run too late in the evening, stretch before and after, run on an empty stomach, run after you’ve eaten. Some of the advice is contradictory, some works, some doesn’t. I’ve tried almost everything I’ve read and have learned that to keep on being able to run, you have to keep it simple and you have to keep running.
Some years ago, I entered a 5K run with my daughter and husband. I laughed at the thought of what it would look like when I crossed the finish line. I was sure I would be last – but I was going to make sure I’d at least cross the line. For a few weeks before the date of the run, I began to push myself harder. I ran farther than usual, I tried to run faster, but was unimpressed with my performance.
Fast-forward to the day of the race, there were a few hundred runners present and I felt nervous; I was sure I would come in last. There were the runners of all fitness levels: beginners, intermediate, and then the well-trained athletes. They were most intimidating of all; you knew they were the ones who would come in first place just by their build and stride. They were lean and ran with a certain bounce that comes naturally to the well-trained runner. Their clothes and shoes were amazing; they had special running glasses and water canisters. Then, there was me, unimpressively dressed me. I walked among the crowd in my definitely drab running gear and unevenly worn shoes that should’ve been replaced months ago. (Thankfully I am no longer in my 20s so my appearance didn’t faze me one bit – this is one good thing about growing older, you just don’t care whether people approve of you or not). I was just there to run as I had for the past 30 years.
Then, as we all took our places, it was time to start. I started off at my usual pace, thinking it was a good day for a run. Indeed, it was a good day. Many quickly passed me by, but I just kept going at my pace. After a few laps around the pre-marked track I began to pass people, to my great surprise, who had dashed ahead of me at the start of the run. I kept on going and found the energy at the second half of the race to pick up my pace. I was alone by this time and wondered what my finishing time would be – I had rarely taken note of my running time, as by nature I am a slow runner. Crossing the finish line, I realized out of all the women in my age group, I came in 11th place. I smiled and thought, “Not bad for a drab missionary runner.”
Hebrews 12:1 NLT “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, 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.”
As it is with running, to keep up with this race of faith we run daily, we need to keep it simple and we need to keep running. Simplicity is the essence of the Gospel: God loved us so much and knew we couldn’t do life on our own so His Son came for us. We couldn’t make it, so He did. That race was too difficult for us to run – so the Trained Athlete came and ran it for us. As I run my race daily that simplicity shines through, as I trust in Him – He already ran. I just follow His steps.
Jesus, the Supreme Runner, won and instead of wearing the medal Himself, He gave it to us. I couldn’t imagine the winner of a 26-mile marathon surrendering his or her medal to someone who didn’t run and give up all the accolades that went with such a victory! It would be as if all of the training that went into that win was for nothing.
Yet Jesus doesn’t need or even want to prove Himself to anyone. He reckons that the medals, the accolades, are nothing in the face of winning the ultimate prize of the redemption He ran to win: you and me.
I never considered myself much of a prize, but He did and today I wear His medal as if it were my own. The challenge for me is to keep it simple so that others might see how they don’t have to win anything – it’s already been done.
So today, and every day, I’m keeping it simple.
I’m still running.