“She hurts every bit as much as you. She just gets relief sooner because she finishes faster.”
– John Rhodes, my HS Cross Country coach
My daily circumstances have lent to philosophical thought the last few days, so here is another analogy to the Spiritual walk.
My freshman year of HS I started running Cross Country. I went out for training and ran miles and miles with the girls – and truly had no clue what I was getting in to. The day before our first meet (it was a home meet), I asked an upperclassmen what the course was. She explained to me that we run a big loop around a field that was on the back end of the school’s property, and then a small loop that went up against the football/soccer fields. I thought to myself that sounded easy enough. So the next day we lined up, the gun shot, and I took off – giving it my everything. I ran all-out for that first loop, then the second loop, and then as I followed the stream of girls I realized that we had to run the whole thing backwards! This race was twice as long as I thought it was!
The first two years, I gave it my all – I listened to Coach Rhodes to press in when he said to, to go after this girl or that girl, to do my best for the team. Then sometime during my junior year I got a bit disenfranchised with 2.5 mile races. I maintained a solid pace, but sort of quit pushing myself. I thought that the star of our team must have it easy – running must be different for her than it was for me, because she made it look so effortless and she ran so quickly. Then one day Coach Rhodes must have known my thought process because he made this statement to me: “She hurts every bit as much as you. She just gets relief sooner because she finishes faster.” That simple statement has stuck with me for the past ten years.
I still run for exercise and fun, and I know that the analogies of running are plentiful in the scriptures. But running is still painful. So with the invention of the ipod, I have started numbing myself to the pain through distraction: music. I have a playlist that I like to listen to, and on occasion I’ll mix it up and listen to an album. But twice in the last two weeks I have forgotten my ipod at work and thus had to run without my music. Without distraction you notice the aches, you notice the mile markers, and you are alone with your thoughts and your pace. I feel worse, it seems longer and for some reason it can be less enjoyable. However. Both times I have run without my music, I have run on average a 15-20 second faster mile pace!
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
– Hebrews 12.1-2
The picture that I see here is that music can be an encumbrance. In the analogy it would not be a sin that would entangle me and render me unable to run – but it is an encumbrance that engages my mind and takes my focus off the task at hand: the race. It numbs me. It serves the exact purpose I desire for it to serve – helps me go farther and longer without thinking about it. But the reality is that by distracting me it slows me down. I will not win the race, which is what we are called to do (1 Cor 9.24). The author of Hebrews would have been familiar with the races of his day – and it is believed that in the Colosseum, at the end of the race, there were tall pillars lining the final stretch with busts of either Greek gods or Caesars past affixed at the top. These served as motivation and inspiration for the runners to look to in order to finish the race well. So he encourages us in the same manner to fix our eyes on Jesus. Look to the greatest encouragement to be able to give the race complete dedication and a full effort.
What are you encumbrances? What do you use to numb yourself to the struggle of the holy lifestyle to which we have been called? Is it TV? Facebook? Social activities? I wrote on planned neglect and running to win here. We are not called to just get through life, but we are called to win! To give our lives in their entirety to the Lord, serving Him in every single thing that we do! Let us lay aside our distractions, our numbing agents, and let us run with endurance – through the pain – so as to win. Fixing our eyes on Jesus.