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On Running and the Gospel

December 22, 2011

It’s that time of the year again! As we approach Christmas and prepare to turn the corner, many of us are looking back on the year we’re about to put a bow on and considering afresh how best to tackle this crisp new beginning we’re being given in the form of a brand new year. It’s New Year’s resolution time! For those of us who are runners, it’s a season when we’re accustomed to seeing new runners on the roads–at least here in the south where weather isn’t prohibitive. Weight loss programs and gyms will slash their membership fees to take advantage of our desire to put our best foot forward, and pasted on my Facebook wall, courtesy of the many running companies, podcasts, and bloggers I follow, are inspirational videos and promotions of the life change possible through the medium of a running lifestyle.

January 2006: 180 lbs, size 16

I happen to be the poster child for the movement. As I shared in my last post, I was an overweight, slow-moving person myself until diet and exercise literally transformed me into a smaller, sunnier version of myself. It wasn’t instantaneous–it took about two years–nor was it miraculous–I lost about seventy pounds, all told–but it was remarkable, and it was life-changing (I often joke that I am a different person than the one my husband married, and it’s not entirely untrue, but that’s a different post).

However, I want to qualify and give pause to some of the excitement and drama that I see building around this idea, because from where I’m standing, it’s extremely misleading. I want to say this as clearly and unequivocally as I possibly can: Jesus Christ is the only source of lasting life change. Running is a fantastic source of stress relief, weight loss, and fitness. But alone, it will not remove your solitude, heal your marriage, or remove your bent toward selfishness. The power and promise to do those things resides in the death and resurrection of the Son of God.

Running is self-aggrandizing and fulfills our sense of self; the gospel reminds us that without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Running gives us palpable, measurable goals; the gospel reminds us that God has prepared eternal works for us to accomplish for His glory, not our own (Ephesians 2:10).

I know there’s a good chance this will be offensive to some, and I think it’s a risk worth taking to speak the truth. I would hope you’d give me grace, and that, if you know me, you understand how deeply and passionately I love Christ, and that there’s a reason I cannot let this go as we close out 2011.

We must be really careful about the power we ascribe to anything we do for ourselves.

The culture would have us believe we are self-sufficient for our own transformation. Unhappy about your weight? Start this miracle diet! Bummed in your marriage? Ditch it and start over! Job not making you happy? Tell your boss to stick it!

summer 2008, training to break two hours at 13.1 miles, 110 lbs

Now, I know I’m oversimplifying. Sometimes, change is necessary. God didn’t grant me a weight-loss miracle; I counted my points diligently for twenty-four weeks to lose  fifty pounds, and I can show you the training plan I followed to break two hours at the half-marathon distance for the first time. But those are time-bound, ultimately inconsequential things. When I die, no one will care what my pr at the half was, or what size pants I’m wearing in my casket. What they will remember is whether I was growing in unselfishness, Christ-likeness, and love toward others–and running will only help me do those things in as much as it helps me develop self-discipline and endurance and patience–spiritual things.

When it comes to the only thing that matters–the rescue of my own life from the pit–only Christ can do that for me (John 14:6). I’ll keep running, because it is good for me, but I’ll ask my God to remind me constantly that running is just running, and pursuing Christ is everything. He has made me an athlete, and for that I am thankful every day. But pursuing my goals as a runner is only part of what He has called me to do as I run the race He has set before me (Hebrews 12:1), and those rank well below my goals as a wife, a mother, a servant, and a friend.

Praying that as we approach a brand new year, we establish goals for ourselves not only as physical beings, but as spiritual creatures as well.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. thejourneytoskinnyjeans permalink
    December 23, 2011 12:39 am

    I love this post! As I’m starting my weight loss journey, it is so important to remember this idea. Because you’re right when you say “Jesus Christ is the only source of lasting life change.” Thank you for reminding me to keep myself balanced while I’m trying to make these lifestyle changes!

  2. the Ringmaster permalink*
    December 23, 2011 6:45 am

    It’s good to find sisters in Christ who can share the journey! I’ll confess that there have been times in my own weight loss story where the balance got out of perspective, so I’m always thankful for people to help me keep my eyes on what–and Who–really matters. As my sister and I used to say during out WW days, “onward and downward!” Very much enjoying your blog!

  3. chad permalink
    December 24, 2011 12:30 am

    awesome. ❤

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