Every other day I go running. Now, there was a time in my life when going running simply meant walking out the front door and taking off. As I just celebrated my 35th birthday, however, my routine to begin running now takes a bit longer. (By “a bit” I mean at least 30 minutes of preparation.)
For me to go running today requires lots of stretching, mental gymnastics, and gear. I hate stretching and psyching myself up mentally to go run a circle around my neighborhood seems a bit silly … but the gear? I love the gear.
For starters I drape myself in Nike Dri Fit fabric. When I was a kid, I would run in burlap if need be, but as an adult, I am finding that even cotton can chaff. (OK, you can take my man card now.)
After getting the right clothes on my body, I have to begin to “plug in.” In my ears are headphones connected to my iPod. I am sure it is a product of our ADD culture, but nevertheless I have to have tunes to take a step. If my battery is out of juice, I am out of the run. Literally, I once showed up at the health club to run and forgot my headphones. I turned around and headed home. Pathetic I know. After plugging my ears with iPod, I wrap my wrist in my Garmin running watch. This beautiful little contraption was a gift from a friend, and is another essential when I take to the streets. It tells me how fast I am going, how long I have been going, and how far I have to go. Unbelievable.
My Garmin has a bad side effect, though: it is quite addictive. They need to put a warning label on that thing. I end up checking how far I’ve come every fourth step. I think the reason I check the watch so frequently is because many times I do not run to enjoy the run, I run to finish the race. I am quite task driven and running is a good hobby for me because I can set out to run 3 miles and I know when I have conquered that goal. The watch only contributes to my obsession. Last night as I ran, I actually forced myself to not look at my watch for what seemed like an eternity. Turns out “an eternity” was only about half a mile. As I was keeping my eyes up for that half mile, however, I found myself enjoying the run so much more. I waved to neighbors, hopped over puddles on the sidewalk, and enjoyed the green grass along the way. Amazing how when I ceased to stress about arriving, I enjoyed the trip.
I mention this story today because as I was running I thought about our spiritual lives. Many times, we stress about “arriving” in the spiritual life. In the midst of struggle with sin, we long to arrive at the point where temptation no longer tempts. In the midst of a friend’s death or personal struggle, we long to arrive at the point where every tear will be wiped away. These are good desires. There is a sense where running the Christian life is about the reward of finishing the race of life and entering eternity. However, in our desire to get there, do we ever become impatient with today and spend our time stressfully gazing at our watches, all the while missing what God is doing around us here and now? God is at work both today AND tomorrow, therefore we can have hope and see His beauty right now. Praise God! If we focus only on heaven, we might miss seeing the creativity of a sunset or the encouragement of a friend. Remember our destination and finish well, but in the mean time, keep your head up and enjoy the scenery.
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’ The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the One who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:22-25