Johanna Wienholts and Jeremy Dijkema will be running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon this morning. In the week before the big race, they took time to tell us about how training for this event got them thinking about the Christian life in a new way:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and 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 if 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
These verses from Hebrews have had quite the impact on us during the last few months of training for our half marathon. While training, we have slowly come to a deeper understanding of the race (literally and metaphorically) that is life. The spiritual lessons that have surfaced from this experience are numerous and we can confidently say that our Lord has been with us every step of the way, teaching us through our trials and achievements. The first and most important lesson is about fixing our eyes upon Jesus, who truly is the perfecter of our faith. We have been forced to rely on the Spirit simply to have the faith to begin. The first few steps of a run are always scary. Though we hope to get through it together, there are an unlimited number of things in our bodies that could go wrong, an unlimited number of reasons why we might not be able to do it. But God consistently has given us the strength and faith we need to start running, and no matter what happens we know He will always be right there with us.
We learned that discipline, which when exercised (pun fully intended), yields results that help in both physical training and spiritual training as well. We have had numerous conversations while running about how this self control has spilled over into the other parts of our lives. Whether it be academic, social, or spiritual, we have seen a multitude of blessings that stem from this God given discipline. Of course it wasn’t easy to get to the point of waking up at 6am to go for a 17 km run in the rain. This was a progression that we saw as we trained and led us to another important lesson: we can’t expect immediate results all the time. It would have been silly to think that during the first week of training we would be able to run 21 km right away. We had to train for months and be patient so that we could finish the race that was set before us. Every week was a new milestone for us as we slowly climbed our way up in the distances we were running. This is very true for the metaphorical race as well, because growth and change don’t happen immediately. It takes time and it takes help from the surrounding community of believers for God to bring about his good works.
We also learned more of the importance of community during training. There were days in the past months where we will admit that the only reason we ran is because we told each other we would. Not only was the accountability crucial, but it was also comforting to know that we were signing up to take care of each other in this endeavor. If one of us were to get sick along the way, we knew that the other would be there. This can be said of the wider community as well. There are, and will be days, where members of Christ’s Body will be discouraged and struggling through life, but it is our job as a family to encourage and help others through difficult times, and it is only through the Love of Christ that we are able to do this.
It isn’t just a one person race. We are all in this together, trying to reach the main goal of Jesus. Analogous to the Christian life as a whole, our running has been with the intention of reaching the finish line. As we run, there are times of soreness, shin splints, runner’s knee, and upset stomachs that are similar to trials and temptations in our lives. We also know, however, that by focusing on the finish line, we can run through these minor setbacks with the strength and knowledge that when we reach our goal, we can rest and be healed. Like reaching a finish line, when we come to Christ, we are able to drink the water that leads to life, bodily and spiritually. Through it all we have celebrated, sung, danced, laughed, sweated, and prayed. There is a gratitude in being invited to run the race God has set before us that is unlike any other feeling. We don’t run alone, we run together, we run with the Spirit, and most importantly, we run in pursuit of God.