Running is a sport of transformation. From stories of people who take up the sport and lose 50lbs to stories of the underdog making an Olympic team, running is like an open door for opportunity. Take Billy Mills for example, who grew up on an impoverished Indian Reservation, but trained hard and ran fast enough to earn a scholarship to run collegiately and eventually go on to become America’s first and only Olympic gold medalist in the 10,000m. Also look at someone like Meb Keflezighi. At age 12 his family had to flee their home in Eritrea for the United States where Meb himself went from never having spoke a word of English or having run over a mile, to becoming an Olympic medalist in the marathon.
|Me and my FSU cross country team with Joan.
Or take Joan Benoit Samuleson for example. Not only did winning the first women’s Olympic marathon transform Joan’s life, it transformed female distance running forever. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” That in itself is the reason why I love running; if you work hard, you always see results and transformations. But despite all of the success and accolades I’ve achieved through running, despite how much I have believed it to be the thing that transformed my life, the reality is it wasn’t running that did this, it wasn’t even me, it was God.
God has forever been transforming my life. He has taken me on a journey. Often times life is considered a journey in itself, but without God, our journey is nothing more than wandering down a rugged trail with no direction. Some may find their way back to main trail, some may take a side path and get there the long way, yet others find the wrong path; that narrow, over-grown trail that never seems to loop back. God is this main trail. Living a life centered on him is what gets us to the right place, and takes us on the easiest route.
My journey with God began when I was born. I was lucky enough to be born in a Christian home, set out on the right trail from the moment I took my first steps. From there, I stayed mostly straight. That’s not to say that I never swayed, like a kid learning to ride a bike, I went left, then right, and back and forth before I found the right balance. Although the majority of my life has been heading down this main trail, the problem was I didn’t always keep my eyes fixed straight-ahead. As Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Instead of keeping my eyes on the prize, Jesus Christ, the center of my life, I focused in on tangible prizes. I began focusing all of my time and energy on one thing more than anything else, and that was running. Sure, I went to church, I prayed at night, and I picked up my bible now and then. Although I claimed that God was most important in my life, and my one and only idol, my actions proved otherwise. Running had become an idol in my life. Running was what I thought about all day long. Scripture tells us to, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength” (Mark 12:30) but instead I gave all of my love to running, and the little love left over went to the very God who gave me my legs. It wasn’t that I was completely blind to what was happening, or that I liked having things this way. For a while I actually struggled with the fact that maybe I wasn’t meant to be running. Maybe running had become a horrible distraction in my life, and I needed to just give it up or back off. I started thinking I had to choose, running or God. Choosing God meant I would have more time for prayer, time reading my bible, time for volunteering, getting involved in my church, and going on mission trips. Choosing running I thought, meant that I would forever have to live with the guilt that those three to five hours a day I spent running, stretching, lifting, napping and eating for running would be etched off as wasted time that could have been better spent to honor and serve my God. Realistically though, I knew I wasn’t going to choose one or the other, I wanted God and running in my life. But I also knew I wanted to make a change in my life, and so I began to pray for help. (See Part 2 for the rest of the story because I cannot seem to keep my writing short enough!)