If you could hear the thoughts bouncing around in my head while I’m running, I’m pretty sure you’d demand immediate psychiatric evaluation. It’s crazy what goes on in my brain as I train for my October half-marathon, and one thing is certain: I’m a quitter.
Tonight I ran my first 10k distance: 6.2 miles of non-strop running. I actually logged 6.24 miles (but who’s counting?) in just over one hour and four minutes, and the battle to stay out on the course was significant. I originally began the night thinking I’d try to run 5-miles again, since I had just completed my first 5 miler last week. But after I finished 3 miles, I had this crazy thought to push through to 6, and as I got closer to 6, my legs told me to go ahead and finish up a 10k.
Sounds sane, doesn’t it? Once I got past the one mile mark however, the conversation in my head was a constant battle. On the one hand, I really wanted to achieve this goal, on the other hand, I wanted to quit and head back to the house to sip a cold beverage and admire how easy a mile was.
As I finished up three miles, my wife split off from me and I headed out on my own. When I’m running with my wife, I know I have her encouragement to stay on the trail and keep up pace. As soon as she peeled off, my desire to quit grew even stronger. So as I turned to complete my second 3-mile circuit, I did a mental check:
Me: Self, how are you feeling?
Self: Lousy. I hate running. My feet hurt. My back hurts. My eyes hurt. My hair hurts.
Me: Wait...your hair hurts?
Self: If that will get you to stop running, then yes. My hair hurts.
Self: Okay, but I was serious about my feet and my back.
Self: I really don’t like you.
It was crazy, every step of the way I kept trying to come up with reasons why I should quit. Do you ever do that? Are you ever looking to stop?
You know what I realized: there is always a reason to quit! In running, every step is a reason for me to quit: My feet can be sore, my calf might be aching, my back gets tired of the bouncing and, as you can tell, my brain is working against me. Tonight my shoulders were tense, and even though I tried to consciously relax them, I kept finding myself tensed (not sure why!). Even on the night of a good run, like tonight, there is always multiple reasons to quit!
What about you? What are you trying to fight for, but find yourself in the mental battle about quitting? Are you wrestling in your marriage? There will always be a reason to give up. Are you contemplating how doable your God-sized dreams are? There will always be a reason to quit. Are you struggling under the burden of debt? Every day you will have the chance to put it off another 10 years! Are you working hard on improving your health? Temptation to give-in is always just around the corner.
You see, the easy choices in life don’t require much effort. Choosing to stay unhealthy is easy. Letting my marriage go to pot doesn’t require any work on my part. Giving up on my dreams is as easy as making Netflix a 2-hour/night habit. The easy choices don’t require much effort. It’s the ones we really want that require effort. And even more than effort, they require a reason!
And I realized tonight that what kept me running after mile 3...and 4...and 5...and 6 was a BIG reason; it wasn’t my effort, and it certainly wasn’t my passion for running. My preparation for this race is a picture for my life right now -- I’m running because this process represents the work that I believe God is doing in my life. I’m in the middle of a long stretch of His working, and He is opening up doors and opportunities for me that require patience, discipline, hard work, endurance and even some joy in the journey! As I physically prepare for a 1/2 marathon, God is teaching me that what it takes to run long distances are the same qualities needed to run spiritually, and to chase after God-sized dreams.
Hebrews 12:1-2 have become my theme verses this year. The writer encourage the readers to strip off anything that hinders them, so that they can “run their race(s)” with perseverance and focus. "Running our race" is a spiritual discipline, that's hard, requires a great deal of effort and sometimes doesn't feel very rewarding in the moment. But God uses that discipline to make us into who He wants us to be, so that we can do what He wants us to do.
Yet, as most of us know, discipline isn't pleasant. We often like the results of the discipline, but the process of being disciplined is far from enjoyable. In fact, we usually tend to resist it and that's why we don't "run our races!" So as the passage goes on, the author gives the big reason why we should run and endure the discipline: “...but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (12:11).
Physically, I'm looking forward to the fruit of discipline that will reveal itself when I complete my race in October. Crossing that finish line will be a big accomplishment, whatever form it takes (even if I'm crawling across!). Spiritually, I'm looking forward to the fruit of the discipline that is required to achieve the God-sized dreams placed inside my heart. In both cases, I have to be willing to be trained by the discipline and the hard work of grinding out the pavement, mile after mile.
And that's why I kept running tonight.
What's your BIG reason for pushing on? Why will you fight for your marriage? How will you keep pressing on toward your God-sized dreams and goals? Where will you find the strength to eat up more pavement when your brain is telling you to quit?
When we live the Overboard Life, we are focused on the BIG why's in our lives, pressing on in the race that God has given us. It's not easy and the process of discipline hurts -- but it has a big payoff when we've truly been trained by it.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is always better on the water!
Project Nehemiah was written to help people identify their goals and go after them with passion and faith. This tool is available in our bookstore in both print and e-book formats (and soon in audible format, too!). Grab a copy today!