Run no. 102 – You don’t know you can until you do

runner lower back pain

Distance: 3.6 miles (5.8 km) Time: 39’ 13”

Emerging from another running hiatus. Second run after a 6 month break. At the moment just getting round without stopping is the goal. Geologically slow pace!

This time I almost didn’t even make it. Immediately within the first 100m I got a massive pain in my lower back; an agonising jolt with every step.

I was really, really close to turning back.

But I’m stubborn and decided to try and ‘run through it’.

Gradually the level of pain subsided and by half-way ‘round it was only a dull ache.

Now I’ve stopped it has come back pretty full on, so ‘Pass the ibuprofen, please’.

But the experience made me think about how many times we stop too early. We assess our chances and capabilities too negatively. How many achievements do we talk ourselves out of?

In my working life I find that at 55 I am doing lots of things for the first time. A new role is pushing me out of the areas of comfort.

I am fortunate to have colleagues who encourage me. Who maybe see things in me that I don’t yet see myself. Who have a measure of my ability and gifting that exceeds my own self-evaluation.

And it is great when I surprise myself. When I do things that I didn’t know I could.

Sometimes you don’t know what you can do until you do it.

I have a sense that it is the same with the spiritual life.

How many times do we not try operating out of our comfort zones?

Have you ever prayed with someone who is ill, that God might heal them as a demonstration of His love for them? Have you dreamed of it, but never done it? How do you know that God has not gifted you with the gift of praying for healing?

Certainly we can never promise anyone anything, for it is God who acts not us. But what about offering to pray saying, ‘I don’t know what God will do, but I am convinced that He cares about you and I feel He is prompting me to pray.’ After you pray ask the person whether they were aware of anything. Listen and decide together what the next step, if any, might be. Maybe you’ll both get a surprise…

Have you ever spoken to someone about Jesus? How do you know that you are not gifted in helping people encounter Jesus for themselves?

Why not ask a friend an open question like, ‘Has there ever been any time in your life when you felt close to God?’ Listen to their response and have a conversation. Maybe they’ll ask you in return and you can share how Jesus became a real person for you and the difference He has made in your life.

Or maybe you could say, ‘You know the Bible is the most amazing book. It’s been the No. 1 best-seller since the invention of the printing press. I mean a book that, in parts, is around 3500 years old! Would you be interested in looking at some of the stories that Jesus told and exploring what they might mean, if anything, for us today?’

Maybe they’ll say yes. Maybe you’ll find yourself reading the parables of Jesus, imagining how they might be retold today in our culture. Maybe you might imagine together what difference it might make if people took them seriously in their lives.

How many times do we miss out on something good because we talk ourselves out of trying?

Sometime you don’t know what you can do until you do it.

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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


Run no. 86 – Habit eats willpower for breakfast

Willpower

 

Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 41’ 14” (PB 38’ 38”)

 

The hardest thing about running for me, is getting out there.

Once I’ve got into my running gear and got out the door I’m fine.

But making that happen regularly is a challenge.

Today was a case in point. It was a hot day and I just wasn’t in the mood.

What got me out there was that a few weeks ago I decided that I needed to run more regularly and that the only thing that was going to make that happen was habit.

So I started the habit of running every second day. Over the past few weeks that habit has got ingrained and it really helps.

Today, knowing that tomorrow it will be very difficult to get a run in, as I’m away all day, the idea of missing today felt like something I just couldn’t do.

In John ORTBERG’s great book ‘Soul Keeping’ he makes the statement that;

‘habit eats willpower for breakfast.’

A good habit, say giving 10% of your income to good causes each month, will keep you giving even when you don’t feel like it.

A bad habit, reacting aggressively to criticism, will eventually get you to the point when nobody can help you with your weaknesses, your worst attributes will be irrevocably fixed.

Which is why being lost or saved, is not so much a destination, as a diagnosis of who you are becoming.

To quote ORTBERG again,

This is what it means to lose your soul. It is not a cosmic threat. It is a clinical diagnosis.

It is not “I could end up there.”

It is “I could become that.”

If you are a lost soul your surroundings don’t matter – I mean this literally – one damn bit.

When it comes to our souls, as with everything else, habit eats willpower for breakfast.