“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself.” —Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk about Running.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” —Hebrews 12:1-3
I am a runner. That is to say, I run, therefore I am a runner. I mean nothing else when I make this profession. In fact, it is with some reluctance that I make that statement, but nonetheless, because I lace up my shoes on a regular basis and make the conscious decision to pound the pavement, I am a runner.
So, why the reluctance? Several reasons:
1. I try to talk myself out of running before each run.
2. I want to quit at least a thousand times while I am running; it hurts.
3. I know just enough about running to know that I know nothing about running.
At least one someone who is reading this is saying, ‘that’s exactly why I don’t run!’ But, here are the reasons I choose to run.
1. I always learn something about myself during a run.
2. For each time I say I want to quit and choose to continue, I become stronger physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. (Seriously, my prayer life has improved considerably since beginning to run, even though most of my prayers are ‘Dear Jesus! Help!’ kind of prayers.)
3. Knowing that I know so little about running makes me want to learn more.
Of course, it’s taken months for me to understand these benefits, but for some reason, I kept running. And even right now as I type this, my mind is planning my next run. Funny, isn’t it?
And, in Van Buren, there are hills everywhere. Everywhere! There is absolutely no where in this town that does not have a sizable hill. One would think that eventually those monster hills would become easier, but every time I find myself at the bottom of one, looking up, the same thoughts go through my mind:
‘I don’t want to do this!’
‘I don’t think I can this!’
‘Haven’t I already proven that I can manage this hill already?’
‘ Why am I at the bottom of this hill again?’
‘When is this stupid thing going to get easier?’
These are all laments to Jesus. At some point while traversing the hill, my thoughts get truncated to the ‘Help! Jesus!’ I referred to earlier.
But, the point is…
I get over the hill.
You can probably see why running is so incredibly spiritual for me. The lessons learned have a direct application to my regular ol’ walking around life. Even as I type this, I am faced with a hill that I would swear looks just like a hill I have traveled before.
Seriously, LORD, we’re doing this again?!
What lesson did I miss out on the last time that would require me to endure this chaos again?!
What is the point of this anyway?!
Can’t you just get me through this without my participation, my sacrifice?
Is the pain really worth whatever is at the top of this hill?
Don’t You care that I hate this?!?
But, the point is…
I get over the hill.
It’s His love that pushes me up that hill. It’s His mercy that keeps steady pressure on my back. It’s His grace that allows my protests as my feet keep moving. And, oddly enough, it’s His strength that gets me up the hill after all. My feet may be moving, but it’s His strength that powers them.
So, church… Momentum church. We’ve been facing a hill. In many ways, it’s the same hill we’ve seen before. A building. A home. A place to continue God’s work. His hand puts the pressure on us, but it’s His strength that powers us. Move your feet. Do what you can do and then do what you can’t do. He is the one powering our steps anyway.
And, the point is…
We will get over this hill.