Last week we began looking at five parallels between long-distance running and Christian ministry. Today I give you numbers 6 to 10.
6. Some days are meant for distance. Other days are meant for speed. Then there’s strength training. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you finish your race well.
The months spent training can be gruesome and it’s nothing if not consistent. In today’s world there are many apps and training programs and advice you can follow. Stick with one that is true to you even there are days you want to throw it in the river. There may be tears along the way. And just when you think you can’t possibly go one more mile, you can. One foot in front of the other, they say. Learn how to breathe. Keep focused. And when the day comes to run your race, finish well.
Being faithful in ministry is more than just about persistence. It’s about staying focused on Jesus and being consistent with the Word of God permeated in your life. It’s the Parable of the Talents lived out. This is everyday life if you are in any kind of Christian ministry. My goal is not to become the type of leader who starts well, but finishes poorly. I want my life to reflect a race won well.
7. You have the capacity for more than you thought possible…except when you don’t.
One time I thought I was doing really well. It was my first time to mile 10 without stopping. “I could keep going,” I thought. After all, my breathing was under control. Until “BAM!” I hit a proverbial brick wall at about a quarter of a mile later. “Nope,” my legs suddenly declared, “we’re done. You’re going to have to crawl home.”
We in Freedom to Lead hold to the idea that much of what it is to be a leader is to seek out the highest Kingdom potential of the people that we influence. I am where I am today because people believed in me and said, “I think you could be really good at this.” Who am I seeking out to say the same?
But, sometimes we come to an end of ourselves. We hit that proverbial brick wall and that’s when we’ve got to be empowered by the Holy Spirit all over again. Which also leads me to #8 and #9.
8. Honor the rest day and keep it holy.
One is not meant to run hard for seven days straight. Neither is one meant to go from 0 miles to 12 miles in 2 weeks’ time or injuries will ensue. A little pain is good for you. A lot of pain is your body’s way of crying for help.
We in ministry are not superhuman. I’ve seen burnout happen on the field more often than it should. In our effort to “be all things to all people,” as the Apostle Paul challenged, we don’t take time to rest. We actually feel a bit guilty when we stop to rest. But we’re kind of useless to the people we wish to lead if we are just chugging along low on fuel.
9. It’s okay to ask for help. Even from marathon runners.
If my marathon-running “coach” was not related to me by blood and I didn’t know he had my absolute best in mind, I would have quit him a long time ago. :) However, it is humbling when this marathon runner is the only one who knows my ever-so-slow time.
As a leader among leaders, I want to assert myself. I want people to perceive me as competent and confident. Asking for help is a sign of weakness, is it not? However, I am learning that asking for help is actually a sign of strength. Surround yourself with people much smarter than you, they say. They also say that if you’re the smartest person in the room then you’re in the wrong room. Sure, it’s humbling when my mentor lovingly points out areas I need to work on as a leader, but I also know his wisdom is valuable.
10. Running creates community with people you normally wouldn’t hang out with.
If you merely mention to a group that you are even thinking of running a half marathon someday, you’ll find yourself still exchanging stories with your new runner friends one hour later. Runners love to talk about running. And it’s the running with people part that makes these races so fun. Or as the old African adage goes, If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
God gave me an amazing community in Freedom to Lead. Several circles of people surround me- the inner circle of seven who are on our team, and then the outer circles of our international partners, board members, and my financial and prayer supporters.
All of this to say that anyone who tells you long distance running is easy is lying to you. But I’m going to wager that most will tell you that it’s worth it, if for nothing else than for the joy it brings.
I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing with Freedom to Lead if it weren’t for the joy it brings. After talking to women in East Africa last month about potentially starting a program that is tailored specifically towards them, and they clasp our hands and exclaim, “we are so happy!” and with tears in their eyes demonstrate the hunger they have for this kind of thing – it’s worth it. When a man on a border town tells us he is using our material on Peacemaking to provide a bridge between two previously hostile ethnic groups – it’s worth it. When a Muslim-background believer tells us how this has transformed his entire perspective on Christ-centered leadership – it’s worth it.
And, oh what a run it’s been!