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?

 

 

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Run no. 68 – The Way Out is Through

 

running-in-puddles

Run No. 66         Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 41’20” (PB 38’ 38”)

Run No. 67          Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 43’39” (PB 38’ 38”)

Run No. 68         Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 47’32” (PB 38’ 38”)

I’ve done that running-hiatus thing again. I haven’t been for a run for about 5 months. There are lots of reasons, but they are mostly to do with the cowardly avoidance of discomfort. But hey, I’m back and at it again.

You know, of course, that the first run after such a long break is going to be tough.

The first 20 minutes were fine but then the body started to feel the effort and complain.

I was expecting that, I was ready for that, I could handle that.

What I wasn’t expecting or ready for was that my usual route was flooded.

We have had wet weather for a few weeks now and the past 24 hours have been constant heavy rain. The already waterlogged ground has not been able to cope with this rain and the rivers are now bursting their banks.

As I began my loop of King Lear Lake in Watermeads Country Park I found myself running through sections of the path that were under water.

The first sections were short areas of flooding and the water was only a few centimetres deep, so that didn’t unduly concern me.

However as things progressed the sections of flooding lengthened to hundreds of metres and the water depth rose considerably.

The water was freezing cold, dirty and the depth of it forced me to high-step to avoid tripping. The extra effort required, by a body that was already suffering, was not inconsiderable!

Everything in me said stop; turn around; find another way; go home!

But I’m a runner.

Runners don’t do that.

So I did what runners do, I found a way to convince myself to carry on.

I told myself –

“I’m wet already.”

“This extra effort I’m being forced to do will pay dividends in fitness.”

“Don’t be a wimp!”

And so on…

And it worked. I made it all the way around. At times the water was just below my knees and I was forced to wade rather than run. But I never stopped.

I felt pretty heroic. The odd random dog-walker shouted their surprise at my bravery/stupidity! It felt pretty good.

I’m almost certain that I will be the only person to run around King Lear Lake today and I am good with that. It is a kind of victory.

Reflecting on this I was reminded that the greatest prisons that exist are the ones inside our own heads. When we are faced with an unexpected challenge – like unforeseen flooding – the greatest factor on whether or not we succeed is whether can imagine ourselves succeeding.

Without a positive mental attitude that can envisage success being possible, we will not even try to face the challenge; we are already defeated in our own heads.

In life most of our greatest challenges are the ones that we cannot foresee – unemployment, bereavement, relationship breakdown, serious illness or accidents.

It is in these moments that our mental approach is crucial. Can we see a way through? Can we imagine a life of joy and hope on the other side of this trauma?

It is here that a person of faith has a great advantage. We believe that God controls the course of our lives and that whatever we have to face, God has allowed it.

All the days planned for me were written in your book before I was one day old.[1]

If God has allowed it then he must know we can get through it and he must know that something good can come of it, as I don’t believe that God allows pointless suffering. Whether that god is something being transformed in us, or some benefit for others – sometimes it is not easy to identify the good. But I cannot conceive how God can be true to the nature he reveals in the Bible if he allows suffering that has no point.

The other great advantage a person of faith has is that we believe that when we open our lives to God we do not walk alone.

Even if I walk through a very dark valley, I will not be afraid because you are with me. Your rod and your shepherd’s staff comfort me.[2]

Often the only way out is through – running teaches us that. Life teaches us that. How good to know that you go through it with the God who knows the way through who knows that you have the capability to get through, and who will accomplish something worthwhile in the process.

Keep on running.

 

[1] Psalm 139 :16 ICB

[2] Psalm 23 :4 ICB