Run no. 95 –Difficult but Doable

Difficult

Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 42’ 47” (PB 38’ 38”)

As I started off I felt that I was going at a good pace (for me!). I decided to try and maintain that pace throughout the run.

It was very painful as I’m just getting back to regular running after a break – although that seems to be my most common state!

I’m not usually someone who looks at split times, but for some reason I glanced at my watch at the half-way point and was amazed to see that it read 19’ 41”; which is actually pretty close to my personal best time.

Which I guess tells you everything you need to know about me as a runner; as I get fitter I don’t go any faster, I just slow down less.

Real runners would want to talk about speed training, but at my age I am really so not interested in speed!

I just want to maintain a reasonable level of fitness and control my weight; both of which have suffered in recent months.

It has been a complicated time in my life circumstances, as a job comes to an end, and as yet there is nothing else in sight. I have been applying for posts that I thought were a good fit for me, only to be rejected every time; which even though you rationalise it, is still a psychological blow. And when you don’t feel good about yourself that tends to express itself in ways that aren’t helpful and feedback back into the negativity.

It was amazing to me that unfit, carrying a few kilos too many I was still able to run at my fastest ever pace – even though I fell off quite badly towards the end.

I fell off quite badly towards the end

I discovered that it is still doable, just difficult; just really painful and unpleasant.

Which was my spiritual lesson of the day. We are told in the Bible that;

 without faith it is impossible to please God Hebrews 11:6

Which, if ever you needed a starter for ten on whether the Christian life is easy or hard, you have your answer.

Someone once said;

Faith is like a muscle, it only gets stronger when exercised.

Others have said;

Faith is spelt R.I.S.K.

And in some senses I believe both of these to be true. However I think the key component of faith is learning to live with not understanding. Learning to embrace the mystery of God, who is often, opaque, obscure, confusing.

the key component of faith

is learning to live with not understanding.

Learning to embrace the mystery of God,

who is often, opaque,

obscure,

confusing.

It is only faith that can hold on when nothing makes sense. If you want to see the awfulness of that experience played out in a human life you have only to read the story of Jonah or Job.[1]

But although their faith was rocked, fissured, stretched to breaking point, it did not fail. God would not allow it to.

All that God asks us to face is difficult but doable.

 

[1] You can get an in-depth look at Jonah through my book Jonah the Epistle of Wild Grace – available free here http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/stephenjohnmarch

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Run no. 42 – The Importance of Club Uniforms

athletic uniforms

 

 

Distance: 4.53 miles  Time: 43’07”   (PB 38’ 28”)

When out running you see people in club kit. The name of the club proudly emblazoned on the chest. You notice that this shared uniform enables club members to recognise each other, you hear the ‘hellos’ and see the salutes and waves.

Of course the primary reason for a club uniform is in competition, it enables the runners of each club to be identified, particularly important in inter-club meets.

All this is the positive benefit of uniform, but some things are lost too.

The individual becomes harder to identify, their uniqueness somewhat diminished by a common kit.

As usual, I was prompted to reflect on this in spiritual terms.

The Christian faith, which I espouse, has only one goal for those who follow Jesus – transformation. A goal sometimes explained by the double metaphor of putting off the old man’ (Ephesians 4:22-24) and ‘putting on Christ’ (Romans 31:14).

The picture is of someone taking off old set of clothing and getting dressed in something new. Those who would follow Jesus are expected, commanded even, to take off the old clothes that are no longer appropriate and dress themselves with Jesus. That is to say that their thoughts, words and actions should no longer represent their old values and priorities but those of Jesus.

In order to be able to do this, followers of Jesus need to know what Jesus said about Himself, about them, and what He commands His disciples to do. There is only one source for this information and that is the Bible – our record of the life of Jesus, the message of Jesus and the response made to that message by those who knew Him best.

It is only as people get to grips with this that they can start to discard ‘clothing’ that doesn’t fit with their new identity, and ‘dress’ their lives and actions with ‘clothing’ that looks like Jesus.

Whilst this process certainly involves the loss of some elements from our lives, and the embracing of a common uniform, this does not undermine individuality.

It is like a football team. At the presentation most players are fairly indistinguishable, their size and stature fairly similar. However when they start to play their individual styles, abilities, tricks and techniques, will be expressed.

In ‘putting on Christ’ we do not lose our individuality, rather we are freed up to express that individuality in a new and fuller way.


Run no. 29 – Running and the ‘Phantoms of Dread’

phantom

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: 40’58”

During the whole of the four and a half miles that I run, there is one particular step that I find the most challenging; and that is the first one, the one that takes me out through the door.

I lie in bed thinking “I should go for a run this morning”; but then the negative thoughts come rushing in, think how hard it might be, think how cold it might be…etc.

And the stark contrast between how warm and comfortable I am in bed and the imagined awfulness of struggling round in freezing conditions; and the choice between that and another 40 minutes in bed…

That first step is really hard to take.

But I managed to take it this morning, and you know what? It was ok. It actually wasn’t cold, it was pleasant. And I found that my run wasn’t painful, it felt comfortable; yet when I looked at my time it was ok, not too slow (well not for me, anyway!).

And when I finished and the endorphin kick came in and I actually felt good about it.

All of which made me start reflecting on the uselessness of dread in our lives.

I was dreading running, yet none of the elements I was dreading – the pain, the cold – even existed. They were figments of my dread yet they weighed heavy in my thinking and decision making and came close to altering my behaviour.

They were mere insubstantial phantoms – yet they might have easily changed my mind and actions.

I started wondering what other ‘phantoms of dread’ are active in my thinking and decision-making? What insubstantial fears prevent me from being and doing all that I might?

As usual my reflections turn to the spiritual life; what prevents me from going deeper with God; getting closer to Him; allowing Him to set the direction and content of my life?

What are the phantoms of dread that hold me back? Fear of what the cost might be? Yet what do I take with me to the next life anyway? As they say, “There are no pockets in a shroud”.

Fear of failure? Yet God calls us to obedience and faithfulness, not necessarily success.

Fear of unpleasantness? Yet God loves us, we are to call Him “Father”, does a loving father impose unnecessary suffering on His children. Any such struggles and difficulties He allows in our lives must have some possible benefit or redeeming possibility – otherwise He would not be true to His nature of love.

Good luck exorcising your phantoms of dread.