Run no. 74 – One Man’s Meat

2017-05-17 15.08.14crop

Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 46’ 05” (PB 38’ 38”)

It has been raining solidly all day; which, for me, is fantastic running weather. I love running in the rain.

I know that other people hate it. There are many who only enjoy running under a balmy blue sky, feeling the sun’s warmth on their backs. But not me; I love running in the rain.

For me any temperature above 20°C is too hot for running and I find it deeply uncomfortable.

No, it’s cold and rain for me, every time. Perhaps I’m a masochist, perhaps it’s just because I first started running in Scotland, a place known for its ‘rigorous’ climate. But for whatever reason that’s my preference.

It struck me that in our spiritual growth preference plays a large part too. What suits one person down to the ground as a way of expressing their faith, what helps them move forward in their relationship with God, won’t necessarily be helpful for someone else. Our individual personality, preferences, life-situation, age etc. all play a part in how we respond to the many different ways there are of expressing and exploring faith.

I have had the great privilege in my life to spend significant periods of time within many different spiritualities – Evangelical Protestant, Charismatic Baptist, Roman Catholic, and Anglican. I’ve also had the opportunity to encounter Orthodox, Methodist, and Pentecostal spiritualities, and I could probably list many more.

My experience has been that each of these has enriched me in some way.

The Evangelical Protestants taught me about how incredible the Bible is and how scholars through their books and sermons can really help me encounter God trough His Word. The Charismatics taught me how to encounter God in worship, His presence amongst us as we glorify Him. The Orthodox taught me how the senses can help us in worship and how glorious sounds, sights, and smells can help us move into the presence of God. The Catholics taught me how to encounter Jesus in the Mass. The Anglicans taught me how important unity within the Christian family is – however difficult it may be to achieve and maintain, and that perhaps preserving a difficult and fractious unity is the greatest act of worship we can give to God.

In fact all my experiences have encouraged me to see the differences in how Christians express their faith as riches we can share, rather than reasons to divide.

All of this means that if ever you are struggling spiritually and your current form of Christian spirituality is not doing it for you, then there are a whole range of different ways for you to try, one of which may be just what you need at this moment.

Try reading a book written by someone from a different Christian tradition, try watching a sermon on YouTube by a teacher from a different church, go and experience worship in another church, or go to a conference organised by a different denomination.

It’s like a child’s paint box. You might have your favourite colour – and that’s fine – but another colour might be just what you need at this moment. And if you tried something different, from a different spiritual tradition to your own and found that helpful, wouldn’t that make you appreciate your brothers and sisters in Christ just a little bit more, and wouldn’t that be a good thing?



Run No. 8 – The comforting delusion of the lonely runner

Time 41’ 17”                      Total Distance 7.3 km (4.54 miles)

99.9999% of my runs throughout my life have been on my own.

Partly that is due to circumstances, but mostly it’s due to the fact that I like being alone when I run.

I like being alone with my thoughts, time to think, no distractions.

Of course the other great advantage is that you can happily believe that you are running quite fast.

As recounted in a previous instalment, an encounter with a be-lycra-ed septuagenarian, somewhat dented that particular myth.

However, I have now been back running for a few weeks and I was quite prepared to believe that I had improved.

However, as I toiled around King Lear Lake I heard a soft, gazelle-like footfall behind me.

I was soon overtaken by a guy. He was probably two decades younger than me (see how I’m building in diminishing factors already), and certainly 10 kg lighter.

His relative advantages were somewhat undermined by his carrying in his right hand a 1.5 litre bottle of water. As any serious runner will tell you, carrying a heavy weight in one hand is not conducive to good running. One should use a camel pack, or at least a gourd carried on a belt, as these will improve weight distribution and not prevent your arms from the natural swinging that is important in running.

Yet, in spite of his clear ignorance of good running practice, he nonetheless sped past me with soul-sucking swiftness.

As I watched him (rapidly) disappear, I noted that actually he wasn’t running that quickly. Which could only mean that my own speed was malacological.

I noticed that I was mid-sole striking – more of a joggers footfall- as opposed to the heel-striking of the proper runner. I tried lengthening my stride and for a few hundred metres I was able to at least slow the rate at which my nemesis disappeared.

This provoked the reflection that the lack of comparison is a great weakness in almost every human endeavour. Without rubbing up against those who are better, more committed, more knowledgeable than ourselves, we can easily believe we are better than we are.

Which I guess is one of the reasons why the Christian faith is specifically stated as incapable of solo execution. It can only ever be lived as a communal reality.

An intrinsic part of the Christian faith is the messy, challenging, frustrating, inspiring, encouraging, faith-building interaction with others. Together – with our varied gifts, life-experience, learning, broken-ness, healing – we are capable of helping each other go deeper, understand better, live more fully, our relationship with God and, improve our service in His kingdom.

Alone we can fool ourselves. Together we see the truth. Sometimes that will be an encouragement. Much of the time that will be a spur.