Last weekend, I ran in the Chuy’s Hot to Trot 5k with some bandmates (and their spouses) to raise money for Special Olympics. A very small race by serious runners’ standards, but we had a blast. Although none of us had seriously trained for the actual race, I was very much reminded why I love running and, more importantly, why the Apostle Paul uses the analogy for our Christian journey.
I always run better in a pack. I actually enjoy training and running by myself. It gives me time to unplug. Unwind. Clear out the cobwebs. Reboot my priorities. But, left to my own, I never run a per-minute mile as fast as I do when there are other runners around. They make me faster. They make me push harder. And they make me less tired. The momentum of the crowd is contagious and it always changes the way I run. As a believer, I need other runners alongside me. My spiritual life simply ‘runs’ better. It’s in our DNA to thrive on community and fellowship and relationships.
The race is reward. Things like stress management, weight control, cardiovascular health, etc., are simply byproducts of the real reward. The real reward is the camaraderie and brotherhood among a crowd of otherwise-strangers. Carbon-based life forms of all shapes, sizes, colors, languages, and skill come together under a single cause. And, if only for a morning, we are one. It sounds outright silly…unless you’re a runner. The reward is the ‘we’ that is found in the race. Like church, what we do on race-day-Sunday is a continuation of what we’ve been doing all week long at home and work and school. The ‘we’ is what makes it different. And how pleasing it is when children of all sizes, shapes, colors, languages, and ‘skill’ levels meet together for worship.
It reminds me to run MY race. As a novice, it can be easy to be intimidated by experienced runners who may be in better shape. Or have longer legs. Or newer shoes. Or…whatever. In a world that tries to make us all similar, it’s nice to be reminded that we are all different. The truth is that I am responsible to run my best and to be an encouragement and help to others in the race. If I can do those two things, I’ll be miles ahead of many in the crowd.
As with each race I run, it makes me want to run more. Longer. Harder. Hotter. Sweatier. To those on the sidelines, it may sound crazy. George S. Patton, U.S. Army General and 1912 Olympian, once said :
"if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing.
You have to make the mind run the body.
Never let the body tell the mind what to do.
The body will always give up.
It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night.
But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired."
Paul told the church in Rome to ‘renew your mind’.
He told the church in Corinth, ‘I beat my body and make it my slave’.
I’m still learning those things, so I’m still running. And I’ve learned that, if you’re bored, it’s because you’re on the sidelines when you should be running.