As we begin a new year into 2018, I see great parallels between long-distance running and the ministry we have with Freedom to Lead. These are personal things I’m learning as I’ve been putting my feet to the pavement these days.
Let’s look at ten of these parallels as we “run hard” into a new year with new beginnings.
(the first five will be this week and the other five will be posted next week)
1. Your attire means everything.
When I first began getting serious about long-distance running I would get giant blisters on my feet and acute pain in my knees. You see, for several weeks I had been running with an old pair of well-loved shoes and cotton socks. All of the experienced runners are right now shaking their heads because they know that’s a big “no-no.” Apparently your shoes and socks can make or break your experience, who knew? Let’s just say that after making the investment in a good pair of shoes and running socks my knees and toes were much happier.
We have access to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords because of the blood of Jesus. I know that I need to daily access the resources given to us through prayer and meditation on His Word. Spiritual warfare is something that many of our leaders in Africa and South Asia know all too keenly and resistance to the Gospel is acute in areas where they work and lead. As we lead our communities, putting on the full armor of God (Eph. 6) is not something we take lightly. Our prayer strategy in Freedom to Lead is crucial to all that we do.
2. Hills are hard. The only thing redeeming about hills is if going “up” also means going “down.” But not all hills are like that.
To be honest, many days we in Freedom To Lead feel like we are making the arduous trek uphill. And then the day comes when we do get a tangible reminder for what we’ve been trusting God. There are the days when we do get people added to our team with the exact skill sets that we need at the exact time that we need them. We’ve had a few of those kinds of days as of late and it is cause for much celebration, just like the joy of a downhill wind-in-your-hair breather of a run! But not all days are like that.
3. You have to adjust to your climate. Your climate is not going to adjust to you.
Whether it’s been on the sandy beaches in humid Florida, in the to-the-bone-cold weather in the Northeast, in the mountains of the Northwest (hello, altitude!), or in a race against the rain and the wind here in North Carolina, each run is going to require adjustment on the part of the runner.
Much of the job that we do in Freedom To Lead is retrofitting our materials to the regions we hope to impact. We believe our product is a transformational one (we call it The Garden Project), but what works in South Asia may not work in French-speaking West Africa. The women in the cities of Ethiopia are different from the women in the villages of Senegal. So, we tweak and adjust and tweak some more, hand to the plow. And we do this because it makes a difference to the under-resourced grassroots leader who needs this material the most.
4. Ninety percent of the effort is putting on your shoes and going out the door.
It takes me an ever-so-long time to put on my shoes simply because I don’t feel like running. However, once I get out there I’m good for go and wonder why I didn’t hit the pavement sooner. Every. Single. Time.
There are many parts of jobs in Christian ministry, including with Freedom to Lead, that are not particularly glamorous. Spreadsheets and database management do not create as good stories as being on the ground in Abidjan or Kampala. The creative process is great when the inspiration actually comes, but sometimes those moments feel like trying to squeeze juice from an almond. Honestly, a lot of times it doesn’t feel like anything is happening. But, we put our shoes on, trust God, and do the next thing. I have found that motivation often follows obedience.
5. I will never be an Olympic runner. And that’s okay. God did not create me to be.
This isn’t a competition. There are people that I work with that have far greater ministry experience than I do. At the same time I don’t want to shy away from the giftings that I have that can be used on this team. I recognize that I cannot do this alone, but neither was I meant to. Rather than wish I were something other than what God created me to be I try to recognize those things that are uniquely me that can bring Him glory.
For those of you in Christian ministry, can you relate to any of these?
Continue reading #6-10 next week!