This is probably a bit of re-write of things I have written about previously but I feel so passionately about this stuff that it is often on my heart. I think it is a subject we need to be thinking about more and working out how to do better.
Community. Relationships. Belonging.
Last week I ran the Sheffield 10k – to many not that bigger a distance, but for me on that particular Sunday it might as well have been a marathon. I had felt sick, with a really ropey stomach the whole of the week before, which only furthered my anxiety about the whole thing. The fact I was running for an amazing charity and had sponsorship riding it on meant I was heaping even more pressure on myself. Bless those (mainly my lovely workmates) in the week leading up to the race who had had to deal with me because I was a bit of a mess, mainly fuelled by anxiety. It was totally irrational but very real nonetheless.
I did it though, I didn’t run as fast as I normally do, as I had to keep stopping as my stomach ached, but I survived and got to the end. I know though that I probably wouldn’t have got to the end if it hadn’t been for those cheering me on. Some were people I know and love others complete strangers. At around the 3k mark were the cheering squad from the charity I was running for, and a few hundred meters on some of my church family, out on the steps of our church. As I had pushed myself up the two hills on the course and was on a downward stretch I saw a figure jumping up and down and screaming “go on Becky you can do it”, my precious colleague, Sarah, and then just round the corner another colleague, again shouting encouragements, and then further down the road old friends and neighbours all spurring me on. By the time I got to the last kilometre I was feeling pretty rough and a girl in the same t-shirt as me, so also running for the same charity, a girl I didn’t know, just looked at me and said “lets keep going, we are nearly there.” I then heard shouting saying “don’t give up, you are so nearly there” and it was one of my best friends, Rach, who is one of those crazy running types that loves it and runs like a gazelle. She had run the race and then run back along the course to find me and shout me on. Rach is one of my biggest cheerleaders in life.
I also loved watching other runners as I ran, some were physically pushing each other forward, other’s were looking back for friends to check they were ok and others putting their hands out for others to pull them on towards the end.
What an analogy of what our communities should look like.
I had literally worked myself up into such a state about this race, partly because I felt so rough, that I was dreaming about the route. Roads I know so well. Roads I have grown up with. Roads I have run lots of times before. One night a few nights before the race I believe God really spoke to me in a dream (which happens rarely for me) – I could see different parts of the routes, and it was as if God was showing me how our lives are like that route.
The bible talks about our life being like a race, that we are moving towards the finish line, that finishing line being heaven, and going home to be with out heavenly father.
Our lives are made up of a crazy mix of good times, times when we feel like we flying and all is well with the world and hideously hard times when life feels incredibly painful, confusing and a little bit, or maybe a whole lot scary. In between there are those normal, ordinary times, where we just moving forward.
Those hills on that route were tough, it was a fight to keep going and get up them, it took all my willpower not to give up, to not sit on the side of the road and say “enough”, or at one point to take a short cut which was downhill/flat, but I struggled on to the top knowing that there were gloriously flat and downhill stretches waiting at the top. I loved those downhill stretches, those brief moments of that run that I really enjoyed, where I remembered why I run. Those moments where I felt fully alive. Then there was those flat bits which felt neither awful nor amazing, there were just there, just ok.
It was as if God through that dream was reminding me that life was just like that route, of those times where it takes every ounce of strength to keep going and not to give up, of those times where you feel on top of the world, bursting with all the goodness life has to offer and those times where you are just getting on getting on. Then on the day itself God reminded me yet again of the beauty of community, of belonging and of relationships. That they are so precious and so important in running this crazy race that is life. We need to be constantly pushing each other forward. We need to be stretching our hands out for each other, to be pulling each other forward. We need to be shouting those encouragements, to be on the sidelines of each other’s lives, spurring each other on, saying:
“Come on you can do this.”
“You are doing brilliantly.”
“You are more than enough, you are good enough.”
“Don’t give up.”
“I am proud of you.”
Just before we started the race I was stood with some of the guys from church and one of them asked whether he could pray a Runner’s Creed over us. It was a really special moment and the words were so powerful. They obviously relate to physically running a race but could so easily be about the race we run in terms of our lives:
“I am a Christian Runner.
I will never quit. I will encourage those around me. I will persevere. I will pray. I will push. I will see Victory.
I will not compare myself to others. I am bettering my former self and the only opinion that matters is Christ’s.
I have good days and not-so-good days. But all my days are God-days.
I am not defined by pace or distance. I am defined by who I am.
I will be thankful for the ability to run. I will celebrate every moment, every mile, every personal record because they are blessings I refuse to take for granted.
I believe that God has equipped me for what is ahead and that no matter how or when I finish, if I run for Him, I win every time.
I will trust God to get me to the finish line… not just on race day, but on that day when my race on earth is over and I am welcomed home.
I don’t run for personal glory, recognition, medals or the calories burned. I don’t run for bragging rights or bucket list accomplishments.
I run Soli Deo Gloria, to the Glory of God alone.
I am a Christian Runner.”
My race that day didn’t look particularly impressive or pretty but I don’t think that’s the point, I ran and I finished and that is all God asks of us, that we do our best and we do it together, encouraging and loving each other forward.