It’s early Sunday morning and the decision to go for a (longish), run provides once again the filling of my soul. The temperature hovers between 26° and 28° F. Chilly enough for anyone who is going to be outside longer than a half an hour, to layer up! Do I look forward to the darker days, colder temps, and unfriendly road conditions this season brings? Not necessarily, but I do look forward to having the courage to get up and show up even when life seems to be telling me to ignore the alarm and sleep until the sun comes up. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when the snooze button is hit repeatedly, finding my early wake-up call turned into a morning snuggled up under my always cozy and comforting covers.
However, it was not one of those mornings. Today in particular something struck me to – at first – make me get a little… defensive. Here I was, running a road I have run many times, enjoying each beat of my feet against the pavement and I heard a little voice start to ask, “What are you doing?” Yeah, it happens like this, in the middle of an average pace when it is least expected. Where the question was coming from was not the problem, the problem was the reality of the question. Under pressure I started rambling on, in my head (don’t want anyone looking to think I am crazy), with an answer. Well, I am running right now – obviously. Later I will go to church, do some chores around the house, cook dinner for the family, and I will sit my butt down on the couch to watch football, ’tis the season. Although I knew this was not what the question was posing, it still felt good to be able to give an answer so assuredly. How incredibly overconfident I was in my answers, as if the simple facts of the daily list would let me off the hook. God just doesn’t work like that, period!
When I finally got over myself, I was able to start picking the question apart. It scared and hurt me, because it opens a wave of emotions and ideas within it. It seems simple enough – what are you doing? Start within a moment or think about the day after tomorrow, maybe even the plans you have for an upcoming vacation. We all have answers we speak to whoever is asking about our tasks and intentions. But God always has more in his prompting than meets the eye. The thing that came to mind was my running, what it means to me, the work and dedication of it all. How this past summer I put in, some efforts, to run my best times in a couple of local half marathons. What I thought I was doing, was putting in a full effort and pushing myself to achieve such goals. Well, with some disappointing times, a bit of a heartbreak, and dreams a bit squashed, I was wondering why this happened.
You see, the past couple of years my running has not been a priority. The sadness isn’t in this alone, but my running also goes hand in hand with my journey into faith. It is the place Jesus showed up in my life, but right now it feels like I am a spectator in my own sport and if you know me, you know this sport is where God meets me. Not only was I trying to achieve something with very little time put in, it was becoming evidently clear, maybe my heart was lacking too. Was God asking me to define my faith and what it looks like? Was He questioning my true belief because to him it looked as if I have only been “lip syncing” on Instagram about His greatness? What I saw in this question was none of these, just a gentle encouraging for my focus to steadily be put back to where it needed to be. I knew my efforts were sup-par and this had to change on both fronts.
Running and faith (to me) go hand in hand; the time you put into each is exactly what you get out of it. In each practice I am mediocre at best, but a certain focus that drives me is needed to develop an armor to withstand the cold, rain, sunshine, hurts, excuses, joys, highs, and lows that come with running and a spiritual life. Many years have been put into both. I will never be a professional runner, but it was never about my finish times, it was about what I learned in quiet prayer along the way.
So, on this cold November morning I am reminded of the Full Armor of God. What it looks like to consistently put it on, season after season and not allow the weather to dictate who I am going to be. There are times when a tank top and shorts will be enough, the lightness of this armor makes me forget the heavier times of different seasons in my life. Winter, however, calls for a fuller armor; puffy vests, winter socks, hats, gloves, and yaks (spikes for your sneaks), to make it possible.
This truth brings me to Ephesians 6:10, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11. Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…13. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so you may be able to stand your ground… 15.and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes with the gospel of peace.”
The wisdom in this scripture as I set foot on the road to spend time with God to wipe away the cares I have stored up, is exactly how it feels to keep running towards Jesus; the center of every season in life. With my winter running armor, I will continue to build miles upon miles of strength and keep developing an armor not just for outer wear, but with a heart aware. Like Pastor Robert Madu said, “If you doubt His authority, you will doubt the validity of His words.” And there lies the truth, His word is our full armor to put on. Mine, yours, and anyone willing to dig deeper into the questions along the way because those questions are, “The helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:17
What I am doing is running with God.