25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:25-27
The Olympics are in full swing, and I get as caught up in them as anyone. I especially love the track and field, of course, but enjoy watching the pomp and ceremony of the opening & closing, the swimmers, and lots of the other sports. I don’t really sit and watch everything, just kind of keep it on for background noise. It’s inspiring and exciting, and I’m not one to ever look away from that combination.
Olympic athletes train for years to get where they are, some for their entire lives. So, why do we, as recreational runners fall prey to the fallacy that we should quickly make gains in our training, even when we’ve only been running for a short amount of time? I’m sure it’s just because we’re human, but I also think it comes from living in a “fast food” mentality society. We want (fill in the blank), and we want it now. Whether it’s to be thin, or fast, or to be able to run far & fast, we think it should happen sooner rather than later.
I’ll admit I’m not immune to that thinking. I sometimes feel like I’ve been plodding along at a pace associated with glacial movement for way too long. I also feel that I’ve struggled with weight issues and lack of spiritual discipline for much longer than I should have. I should be much farther along in these areas that I am, given my level of discipline and attention. Yet, here I am: slow, still too many pounds overweight, and not spending nearly enough time in the Word and in communication with God.
Then, it comes to me. I think about where I was when I started this journey. And, I realize the progress I’ve made. There was a time in the not too distant past when I would have been discouraged to the point of quitting after two bad long runs in a row (which the last couple of weeks brought for me). Now, I know that even bad runs teach me something, so I make the adjustments I need to, then keep on putting one foot in front of the other. It’s the same thing with the number on the scale and getting into a spiritual discipline of Bible study and prayer. I don’t beat myself up about failure or lack of progress anymore. I remember that every day brings new mercy and new opportunities. So, I reach for what the day brings.
I am in strict training, spiritually and physically. I’m seeking that crown that will last forever. I know that I’ll stumble, I’ll fall, I’ll even skin my knees up. But, I also know the absolute joy that becoming a more disciplined child of God has brought me. The peace, contentment, and ability to face life’s difficult moments with calm. That’s not me. That’s Him. I’m humbled and thankful that He’s brought me to this place. It’s a work in progress and I’ve finally realized that it’s not only okay, it’s absolutely necessary. The things I’ve gained quickly and with little effort in life, I don’t appreciate, and seldom hang onto. The lessons I’ve learned through long, hot runs – the figurative ones as well as the literal ones, are the ones that stick.