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I have been running most of life.  I ran the bases when I was six.  I ran the soccer field all through high school and my early 20’s.  I ran my first triathlon when I was 24.  I ran my first marathon when I was 26.  I have been running for what seems like my entire life.

I love to run.  Even though it is harder now to find time, I do.  Even though it is harder now to really compete, I try.  Running is often painful, but it is always beneficial – physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Run time is often prayer time, think time, and find peace time for me.

I have run countless races over the past dozen years.  When I first started, my husband would come to a lot of them and cheer for me.  As time, change, and kids crept up on us, it became increasingly harder to find Mr. Rodeheaver attending my races.  While I am overwhelmingly thankful that I still get to run races often, it is very rare that I ever have any fans encouraging me at a race these days.

The truth is that when you love something – be it a sport or a hobby or a job or a calling – encouragement is nice, but it is generally not necessary.  When you love what you are doing, the reward is the privilege of doing it.  Getting to do what we love is our motivation.  No one has to remind me to set my alarm to wake up early.  No one has to shake me and roll me out of bed.  No one has to tell me to get dressed and feed me protein bars or pep talks in order to motivate me to go outside.  I do it simply because I love it.  Even still, when encouragement is offered, it is a rare and treasured blessing.

As I ran a little race this past Saturday, my cheerleader made a rare appearance.  My husband and I were away celebrating our anniversary and I found a 5K to run for fun.  I told him he could fish while I ran, but he insisted that he wanted to watch.

Throughout the entire race, he sent running memes, pictures, videos, and words of encouragement to me.  I could see him cheering from what seemed like mile from the finish line all the way to the end.

Truly, we should all learn how to be cheerleaders.  We should all be cheering for one another and encouraging each other in whatever good we find to do.  Encouragement is always helpful, motivating, and inspiring.  I often wonder why so few encourage excellence.  But then I remember Jesus.

Jesus was the most excellent person who ever lived.  He did all things absolutely perfectly.  Still, there were more than a few people who despised him for his excellence.  So much so, that they not only hated him, they sought to kill him for it.  Consider the words of John:

So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”…”Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.” ~John 11:47-48, 54

Jesus’ own people were so jealous and insecure when he did the things his own Father (God!) sent him to do that they hated him completely out of town.

Jesus did not receive much encouragement from men even when he did what was absolutely perfect.  His encouragement was from His Father, God.

The truth is, I want the well done.  I want it with everything in me.  It matters nothing at all to me if men hate and despise me.  It hurts, but it does not change who I am or what I will be found doing.  If I am doing what pleases my Father, I will wait patiently for him at my race’s end.  All the years I spend running alone will be worth it when I see him clapping from a distance because he is the One I love more than life itself.

Encouragement has it’s place.  I wish that we would all become more like cheerleaders for one another because, let’s face it, life is hard enough and good words are often hard to come by when you’re living out your calling in life.  But if we are sold out and surrendered to the work we get to do here out of love for He who gave us the work in the first place, encouragement and earthly approval is very secondary.  Encouragement is only a perk – an added bonus if and when it elusively appears.

All I really want is the well done.  I want to truly be the good and faithful servant.  I want the well done at the finish.  I will gladly forfeit every false and phony accolade that compromise and complacency would bring for the proud words of my good and faithful Father.  I can wait for the well done because the One who will say it is worth every lone and heavy step taken towards Him.

 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. ~1 Corinthians 9:24

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I survived my first week of training.  I lost a few pounds and gained a few insights.  I have to admit, throwing punches at a real person takes some getting used to.  It’s one thing when you’ve got beef.  It’s another when you’ve got nothing but appreciation, admiration, and respect.  It is not natural.  It’s hard to get in the right frame of mind.  You have to focus on something other than that human being.  You have to focus on your mission; your position; your goal.  

“Frankie liked to say that boxing was an unnatural act, that everything in boxing is backwards. Sometimes best way to deliver punches is step back. But step back too far, you ain’t fighting at all.” ~Eddie Scrap On Dupris in Million Dollar Baby

You know what is even more unnatural?  Being jabbed at.  How about being jabbed at by a dude twice your size, ten times your strength; skill; speed; knowledge; precision and who possesses all the skill and experience you have not even begun to learn yet.  

“I wanna run away from you, Coach!  I’m scared!  You’re stalking me down!  I got nothin’!”

“You do not run!  Never run.  You wanna fight?  Fight!  You wanna run?  Get out on the road.  You might as well give it up.”

For a wanna-be fighter who has an extremely poor defense and only knows how to play offense when when the opponent is a stationary, lifeless bag, I needed to hear that.  For a girl who has spent her entire life running – both literally and figuratively – Coach has something here that I desperately need to learn.  

Never run.  Fight.

I love to run.  Running is my favorite activity when I’m happy, sad, mad, or ready to implode.  Running gives me clarity.  It relieves stress.  It gives me peace and time to meet with my Maker; to pray; to decompress; to re-prioritize.  

Running does other things, too, though.  Running avoids.  Running ignores.  Running fails to deal with what’s still waiting at the finish line.  Running makes a kind of pseudo peace even though it knows there’s a stalker standing inside the ring who must eventually be dealt with.  It’s an extremely poor defense when you are confined to a ring surrounded by fire.

The Lord is using my very amateur attempts to learn how to box to teach me what to do when running is not the answer.  

Running may save me from pain in the moment sometimes, but it will never keep me from feeling the pain in proximity to the problem day in and day out.  I’m going to keep getting burned on those flaming ropes if I continue trying to run from the fight.  The truth is, I’m going to need some offense.  Poor defense is not sufficient to win the match of life.  

Our culture has all but lost its ability and desire to debate, discuss, dissect, and deal well with its opponents.  Instead, we run.  We hide in flaming corners getting burned by our own foolish defense.  We must fight for the truth by staying in it no matter how small of an underdog we seem to be.  

Running has its place, but so does fighting.  You will not fight if you keep running loosely lodged in you back pocket.  You will not run if you are a real fighter.    When you begin to realize that the shame of deserting is far worse than the pain of getting beat up, you cease to run and you learn to fight to the very end.  

I want to be a real fighter.  I want to be able to run without needing to.  I want to learn how to focus so fully on my mission; my goal; my God that it no longer matters how I feel about my opponent.  Whether I love, hate, fear, or have neutrality towards him, I want to be able to lay it down and strike at the heart of that fighter every single time.  Then, I will be of use to my manager.  Then I will not need to run no matter how badly I am beaten.  Then I will have the heart of a true fighter.  

“In the clearing stands a boxer 
And a fighter by his trade 
And he carries the reminders 
Of ev’ry glove that layed him down 
Or cut him till he cried out 
In his anger and his shame 
“I am leaving, I am leaving” 
But the fighter still remains. ~Simon and Garfunkel

 

 

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