Confession of Obsession

“It’s been awhile,” and I hate typing that, knowing that I keep “meaning” to blog but somehow the months flew by, and I never seemed able to get past typing the first line. But when I hear the phrase, “It’s been awhile,” the first thing I think of isn’t blogging, instead my mind hears the phrase in a cute British accent, because  that’s what my Geico gecko suffed-animal will say if I squeeze his tummy. Random, I know, but I promise I’m getting somewhere. You see, the Geico Gecko, and well, all geckos in general, are just one of my many obsessions. By obsession I mean anything I “love” more than most people. I fell in love with the Geico commercials awhile back, and since then have collected everything from a stuffed gecko, gecko travel mug, lunch box, magnet, pens, and above all my very own live pet gecko. Strange, I know, but as I look back throughout my entire life I’ve always had little “obsessions.” When I was really young it was frogs, when it comes to foods I’m absolutely obsessed with anything coconut, for TV shows it was LOST, (I mean I can’t even tell you how many hours of my life I wasted trying to figure out what 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 meant!) and perhaps most relevant would be my obsession with running for the last nine years.

Nine years, that’s…nearly a decade of my life, roughly 3,000 days of running, enough mileage to run from the East to West coast and back at least twice. Running as long as two hours at a time, doing over 1,000 crunches in a row, and sitting in a tub of solid ice day after day, are just some of the thing’s I’ve done to be a better runner. Some might call it “dedication”, but if you actually saw my large collection of old running shoes, pieces I saved from my old rubber track, several foot-high pile of Runner’s World Magazines, binders full of running logs and weights and core routines, and best of all the walls of my old bedroom which where covered in entirety with running posters, quotes, photos, bib numbers and medals; you might as well just use the word “obsessed.”

There’s no doubt I’m obsessed with running. Although I may have finally conjured the guts to donate my old shoes, finally part with my old raggedy cross-country t-shirts, and replace a bookshelf of running magazines with actual novels and my Bible, I would still say the majority of my thoughts and actions relate to running.

But isn’t obsession what it takes to be good? Is it the difference between dedicated and obsessed what takes you from a great runner to an elite one? Sometimes it seems that way, but then again, not all professional runners analyze and memorize running results, spend hours on Letsrun.com, or spend every minute reading, writing, talking and thinking about running. And yet, their the ones bringing in the gold medals, setting the records, and achieving goals most of the running population could only dream of.

Now, I hate to be the person who says hard work can only get you so far, and then its all about talent. As many times as I’ve heard this, I’ve refused to believe it. At the same time, I’ve realized that although competitive running takes utmost sacrifice and dedication, and maybe a little obsession, its only going to work to a certain level. There’s are fine lines in competitive running; between eating healthy and eating disorders; adding extra miles and adding weeks of time off from a stress fracture; sticking to your splits, and having your eyes stuck to your GPS. It’s when these lines are crossed that it goes from dedication to unhealthy obsession.

For some people, it takes a downfall for them to realize their obsession has gone too far. Lucky for me, I’ve always been well aware of my obsession with running, and because I never took it to an unhealthy level it seemed like a harmless obsession to me.  That is until I began to wonder what its all worth. At some point we will all no longer be runners (hopefully thats decades away) and because of that I felt like I needed to remind myself there’s more to life. For me this realization has lead to a deepened and growing relationship with God. It’s been a life-changing journey from a few years ago when I claimed running was “my drug,” to now I’m “Running for Christ.” But through it all there is one thing that has not changed. I’m still always going to be a little obsessive about certain things, the question now is, “Do I obsess over what really matters?”

There’s a verse hanging on my mirror, Matthew 6:24 that reads,

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Now, when I first heard this verse it didn’t seem to register that it was applicable to life. That is, until my friend pointed out to me that you can really substitute the word “money,” with any other thing you idolize, obsess over, or put before God. And so I of course changed the verse to say “You cannot serve God and running.” Immediately I felt a frown coming on my face. Something seemed very wrong about this. Couldn’t I believe in God AND be an amazing runner? Maybe so, but then as I thought deeper I realized this is not the point Jesus is trying to make. He tells us not to store up the treasures of this earth, but instead to store up the treasures in heaven. The point he makes here is about priority. Money or running are not entirely bad things, in fact there is value in earthly things if they are used in a way that honors the Lord. However, if these things are placed before God we should re-examine our hearts.

When you think about it, serving money could also be thought of as obsessing over it, or putting priority on it. In the same way, serving running would mean obsessing over it. Sometimes when I look in the mirror and read this verse I still feel convicted of obsessing to much about running over God. But then again, I remind myself that God gave me the talent and legs to run with, and so there are ways I can use running to honor and glorify Him. At the same time, it reminds me that just as easily as I was given talent and opportunities in running, they could at any time be taken away. Its nearly impossible for me to imagine a life without running, but at least I know if that happened I would have a God who loves me more than I could ever even try to love running.

An obsession is really something that takes over your life. So knowing that I might always have a sort of obsessive/addictive personality, why not obsess over the very thing that GIVES me LIFE? Running isn’t life.  Sure there are physical health benefits to running, not to mention the rush of adrenaline and endorphins, but there’s no life in running like there is in Christ. When Jesus died on the cross for us, he allowed for our sins to be forgiven, and eternal life with him. Talk about a treasure worth obsessing over! So why not obsess over God’s love?  Why not serve Him, not only faithfully, but full-heartedly?

Deuteronomy 6:5 sums it up perfectly,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

Its not easy running competitively with this attitude. After all, competitiveness is bred from selfish desires, often which climb the ladder of our priorities very quickly. There’s a reason why many athletes in the spotlight have a “win at all cost,” and “nothing else matters” kind of attitude. But that is not what I feel like the Lord has called me to do. Instead I feel that he has called me to keep pushing, to the highest level I can achieve, all while focusing my obsession on loving Him with everything I have.

And so I challenge you to think about what it is you obsess over most in life. Not everyone would be described as having an obsessive personality, but we all have priorities. The question is, do our upmost priorities have eternal value, or are they other things that have taken over our life?

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