When I redesigned my blog I gave it a fresh new title, “Giving the Glory” A lot of people may not know the story behind this title, a story of heartbreak, redemption, and a newfound joy in life; a story I hope you find worth reading.
The story behind this title begins with three simple words. …
These three words we can all relate to, since we all do millions of things every day. For many people, we go so far as to define our very selves by whatever it is we do; in my case I simply define myself as “a runner.”
Running, it’s what I’ve been doing most of my life, and not because I’ve been chased! It’s been 12 years now since I first dedicated myself to the sport of track and field, and over the years my passion for running has only grown stronger. Yet, to say there weren’t any bumps in the road would be a lie, and in fact there once was a point when I considered giving it up entirely.
But before we go there, let’s think for a moment not only about what it is that we do, and what defines us, but why we do what we do?
For me, the answer to “why do you run?” has always been clear: 1) Because I love it. 2) To become the best in the world, to race in the Olympics, to win.
To most people, the attitude of “running to win” seems not only logical but praiseworthy. If not competing to win, why compete at all? Yet, somewhere along the lines of running to win, to better myself, to be better than others, to gain medals, trophies, and other signs of approval, I lost sight of something; what I was living for.
It was my sophomore year of college, the NCAA Championships 2010 when I had one of the worst races, (and when I say worst, I’m talking 100+ places behind my goal, hunched over in unbearable pain and audibly moaning the entire last 800m) when I realized something: I was living for running, and I had given everything to this sport and to prepare for this race, yet here I was nearly last, wondering how something like a freak side stitch could suddenly come along and ruin everything I worked for.
You see, no matter how much you give, in running (or in life), there’s no guarantee you’ll get what you “deserve,” no guarantee you win, or even come close.
Why, because life’s not fair? Of all the races for me to get a crippling side stitch, it just had to be the one that cost my team the National Championship Title? When I say “crippling” I mean, the pain was so bad it remained in my lower abdomen for two weeks following the race. I still have no idea exactly what caused it, but the pain it caused was still nothing compared to the pain of my broken heart.
That pain in my heart, I began to realize, was a longing to start living for something more. Something greater than winning a national championship, or even the Olympics.
That thing really wasn’t a thing at all, but someone. The One. The one who had given me life, the ability to breathe and to run. The one who loved me more than I could ever love, who offered me hope and forgiveness. The one who knew me better than anyone else in the world. The one who was patiently waiting for me to wake up…
If you asked me then if I knew God, I’d tell you “all my life.” Born and raised in the Church, I spent every Sunday worshipping and was always taught to put God first. But somewhere between the year a scrawny, blonde seventh grader joined the track team, and time she was running towards becoming a National Champion, running became her God.
It was the night after that horrible race, while the rest of the team was out celebrating our National Championship Runner-Up finish, that I sat there in tears and began looking for answers. At the time, it felt like I had hit rock bottom, and so I did what many people find themselves doing in such situation; I prayed.
In the months following, God touched my heart in an unexplainable, unmistakable way. Suddenly I could see clearly what I knew all along; I needed to start putting God first. Why? Because He was the One who gave me everything. Above all, Jesus had given up his life on the cross to save me, you, all of us from our sins, by offering forgiveness to those who ask, no matter what lie in our past. I began to see that God loved me more than anything, and I needed to start living my life for Him.
Like many people who recently gave their life to Christ, or in my case “rededicated,” I was eager to jump head first into making a drastic change. Once I realized I wasn’t putting God first I made the mistake in thinking I had to earn back God’s love by giving up anything in my life that I was putting before Him. I thought following God meant I had to be like the apostles in the Bible who left behind their jobs and families to follow Jesus. Not that is always a bad idea, but I went extreme. Never in my life, even after that horrible race, had I though about quitting running, that is until I thought of doing so as a means of growing closer to God.
The following summer there was still that battle in my conscience between running and God, as if the two couldn’t co-exist. Then one day one verse changed my whole perspective. I was at a Christian running camp called, The Altitude Project up in the mountains of Mammoth Lakes, CA. It was there that God revealed the solution to my struggle. The theme of the camp just so happened to be “A Living Sacrifice,” based off Romans 12:1-2,
As I studied this verse, I learned about this idea of a “living sacrifice.” First, the word living signifies that we are to offer God more than just a one-line promise “okay, I give you my life,” and instead our everyday living. This means, that whatever you do in life, (outside of doing evil) you can offer it up to God. You don’t have to necessarily change what you do,(quit your job, move to a third world country) but why you do whatever it is you do and what you live for. People often mistake the word sacrifice to mean giving up, ending, or killing off something. But a better definition would be:
Sacrifice – an act of offering of something precious.
So what was it that was a part of my everyday living that was precious to me? You guessed it–running. When Paul tells us in Romans to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, He’s telling us to treat our bodies as the wonderful creations that they are, using them as they were intended, to the best of our abilities.
Abilities, after all, come from God. So why would God want us to waste the talents he gave us, if they could be used in a positive way? Positive, of course, being key here. I realized that God gave me the ability to run and instead of looking at running as an obstacle that kept coming before my faith, I needed a shift in priorities and to start using my running to bring God glory.
Part of shifting priorities is sorting through your habits and letting go of anything that is holding you back, anything that does not glorify God. As part of the living sacrifice, Paul says in the second verse of Romans 12, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world,”meaning that we must be careful not to fall into the temptations society promotes. As competitive athlete, the temptation to conform is ever so evident: the desire for fame or wealth (lust), focusing all on your training and yourself (selfishness), never being satisfied with your performance (greed), and always comparing yourself to other athletes, wishing them poor luck, or being jealous of their achievements (envy).
You may think society doesn’t promote these things, but just think about social media for example; its an endless breeding machine for comparisons, self doubt, greed and envy! It tells us that we should be extra skinny, smart, rich, athletic and sexy to be successful and it encourages you to brag if you are any of the above.
I’m plenty guilty of falling into these traps, over and over in fact! But rather than giving up competing, just because it comes with a hefty bag of temptations, I’ve decided to continually try to seek Him first in my life, knowing that there’s nothing God cannot help me overcome. Part of that meant spending more time both in my Bible and in prayer, really getting to know God for who he really is. The second half of that was learning to share who God really is with the world around me. That’s when I decided to start this blog (almost four years ago) to share my faith and give God the glory He deserves.
Recently, I came across a verse that seemed to sum up everything I hope for this blog and my running journey to portray. It starts with those three words, “Whatever you do…”
It’s by the grace of God that we get anything in life. So when we do get what we think we deserve, what we worked so hard for, it’s only right to thank the ones who helped us get there, right? The One who offers life, free will, and forgiveness even though we don’t deserve it, at least deserves that we acknowledge Him.
So whatever you do, whether on the track, field, court, hospital, home, office, church or street, I hope you too will realize God deserves the glory.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” – Colossians 3:17