Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: unrecorded (PB 38’ 38”)
Today was my first run for 4 months.
I knew it was going to be hard and to hurt.
I didn’t time myself, as the objective was to see if I could still run 4.53 miles without stopping – I could, but only with great difficulty.
In my running loop I passed a lady walking her dog and gave my usual greeting “Good morning, God bless”. As I passed her again on the return part she shouted out an encouragement, “You’re nearly there!”
I replied “This is my first run for 4 months; stupid idea!”
She shouted back, “You won’t think that later!”
Which made me think.
Of course she was right.
You finish your run and the endorphin kick hits you – your body’s self-reward mechanism for your having done exercise.
You also experience the warm glow of satisfaction that you can still run, when many of your friends of the same age can’t.
You get the sense of righteousness that in that doing exercise you are protecting your body against 30 different types of cancer.
That helped me – lungs afire, heavy-legged, and uncomfortably hot. That reminder of the good that was to come got me through the final third of my run.
This reminded me that the spiritual ‘race’ is no different.
St Paul described his approach in the following way:
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
None of the things which foster our spiritual life – prayer, engagement with the Bible, attendance at a worshipping community, serving others and sharing with them, the de-centring of my own wants and needs, giving God control of my life – are easy. They never become easy. They are always costly and challenging and go against our nature.
The only reason that we will embrace them is the hope of where they lead, to goal to which they can take us.
What s that goal? Well God is His own reward – He has nothing better to offer us than Himself. The more we embrace the disciplines of the spiritual life, the more God will reveal Himself to us and in us.
Recently I have had a powerful reminder of the latter.
A man I know has recently become a monk. He still lives in the same village, he still carries out a full-time job, but he lives according to the monastic rule of life and he lives to serve God and his community.
He rises at 3:45 to spend 3 hours in prayer and meditation. He stops every three hours during the working day to pray the monastic offices.
The change I have seen in him over the past year has been dramatic. There is a presence in him, a peace, and an authority. Just to be with him is to experience God.
Obviously we are not all called to be monks, but we are all called to be in relationship with God, and we are all capable of it.
All it takes is discipline.
All that will sustain it as we experience the pain and challenge is the knowledge of where this leads us – to a deeper encounter with that being who is all good, all wise, all love, all power, all majesty.
I think that this should motivate me more.