pecaspers: a Blog in transition

February 28, 2016

Making the Race Harder

We went to Burger King for dinner tonight because our kids needed some time running around on a playground and… No, no “and,” the playground was the deciding factor.

After most of the food was consumed and the simple enjoyment of climb, slide, run, repeat wore off, my very competitive son challenged my wife to a race. Up the playset, down the twisty slides, the first one back wins. So that was fun for a few rounds with Mommy and/or Sister. Then Daddy got in on the action. Then we took a break, ate a couple more fries, split a cookie four ways, etc. 

Racing resumed with an added trip up the playset and down the double slide. Mommy sat out a couple rounds watching the baby while I let my boy win and my girl came in a distant third. When Mommy entered into the final race (leaving me to sit out), the course changed again. This time it was Mommy who made the race harder. Too hard for herself, in fact. The race became this: up the playset, down the twisty slides, back up the playset, down the double slide, through the tunnel under the playset, and back to start. 

That tunnel is easy for a 5 year-old to run through. Not so for his 20-something mommy; she had to crawl. It was hard to watch. Do I laugh, do I encourage, do I feel sorry for my sweet wife struggling to finish a meaningless race against our son?

Here’s where I landed.

I laughed at and with my wife, I cheered for her as she crawled to an embarrassing defeat of her own design, and I felt sorry for all of us humans for all the times we’ve made the race harder for ourselves. 

In the Bible, the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes at one point, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1,‬ ‭ESV‬‬).

Adding needless complexity can make things better when you’re talking playground fun. That’s not the case with life in general nor with the Christian life in particular. God has good things for you to experience for your enjoyment, hardships he intends you to endure for the sake of developing your character, and comfort to give you so that you can comfort others (note: only hurting people need comforting). So the life your Father in Heaven wants for you will be a hard enough race to run, hard in an ultimately good way mind you.

The trouble is that we make the hard-in-a-good-way race harder in a bad way when we deviate from the course set before us. We add trips into dark valleys only to have to climb steep cliffs to get back out. We stop to attend to some distraction and let the race get away from us such that we must run all the harder to catch up. We pick up extra weights which we’re told add to the fun but merely add to the difficulty of running the race. 

My father-in-law runs marathons. I can’t imagine him getting halfway through the Boston Marathon in April and deciding to run an extra mile off the course to pick up a Big Mac, a pack of cigarettes, and pair of 20-pound dumbbells, you know, just to make the race more interesting. That’s insane. No one does that. I also can’t imagine him cutting down a sidestreet to shorten the race. That’s cheating, and it disqualifies one from finishing and receiving any award.

So why do we do that kind of thing so often? Usually, it’s because we aren’t thinking about the consequences of our actions, like my wife who didn’t think about how she would get through a tunnel designed for children. You get to make many real choices in life, but you never get to choose the consequences of your choices. 

Think about it.

Are you making the race harder for yourself? How is that working for you? What do you need to do to get back on course? (Hint: Give Hebrews 11 & 12 a read for starters.)

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March 14, 2013

I Hate Running: Thoughts on Discipline

Filed under: Ministry,My Life in General — pecaspers @ 9:43 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Have you ever hear of a “runner’s high”? It’s some sort of euphoria you are supposed to experience when you take up distance running.

I have never felt that.

I (dramatic pause) HATE (more pause) running.

Tonight, I made the mistake of trying to go for a 2.5 mile run too soon after a heavy dinner. I cut my run short by about half to avoid any scenario involving puking. Cutting it short wasn’t ideal because I missed my run yesterday, but I guess now I’ll go back to my Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday run schedule.

As the New Year began, I purposed to get back to training as though I had a race to run. My father-in-law, who likes to run marathons, got us to run a 5k with him last year. The pounds were dropping as we trained for that race, but they not-at-all-surprisingly came back on when I stopped training after the race. So as a means to the end of getting in sight of 200lbs by the end of 2013, I downloaded a 10K Trainer app and started getting after it.

There haven’t been many days I’ve missed so far. I’ve gotten to the point where I can jog for a full 25 minutes without a break–when I don’t have steak and potatoes weighing me down, that is. In two more successful runs, I’ll be pushing it toward 27 minutes. And of course, the eventual goal is to be able to run a 10K in about an hour of solid jogging.

But let me reiterate that I hate running. I do not enjoy my runs, at least not the running part. I do enjoy getting the time to listen to sermons, podcasts, music, etc. I enjoy the chance to get out of the house. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve pushed myself beyond my former limits. But I hate, I hate, I hate the running.

Typically I get about half a mile behind me before contemplating punking out. Then, I decide that the growth in discipline is worth the effort and keep pressing on. A little after half-way through, I’ll start setting short-term goal to overcome. “Just make it to the stop sign, and we’ll see how we’re doing then,” I tell myself. When I reach the goal, I realize I’ve got more in me, and I keep going. With about 5 minutes left, I’ll start to tell myself that it would just be embarrassing to quit after making it so far. My go-to internal encouragements to get me through the tough spots are that (A) Jesus endured worse, so I can make it through this to His glory by His Spirit in me; (B) Satan likes failure and quitting, so keep going just to stick it to the Devil; (C) Jessica will find it sexy how strong and awesome you are if you keep going. Option C isn’t strictly true of any individual run, but I’m holding out hope that it proves true in he long…run. (I tried to stop that pun, but what’s the use?)

So why do I run?

The Apostle Paul says, “for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come,” (1 Timothy 4:8 ESV).

One of my biggest ongoing struggles is consistency in discipline. There are virtually no expectations or limitations put on me by my church. Other than Sundays and Wednesdays, nobody constrains me to be anywhere or do anything in particular. It’s easy to be wasteful and poorly prioritized with so much flexibility in ordering my time. And so, that is where 1 Timothy 4:8 comes into play.

The “some value” of “bodily training” includes the fact that discipline begets more discipline. Now, obviously the health benefits are there, and I’m running for those as well. However, developing a more disciplined life is more of a driving force in my taking up running.

And since running is a practice in developing discipline in my life, it’s really not a shocker that I hate it. See, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it,” (Hebrews 12:11 ESV). Discipline is always unpleasant in some sense. It costs some sacrifice of blood, sweat, tears, or worse. And yet, don’t miss the promise. Discipline produces righteousness, and righteousness IS pleasant and peaceful.

And so I run. I hate running. If by running I might come to be more like the Savior I love, then I’m going to need new shoes because I have a long way to go.

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