A few weeks ago, I wrote a post entitled “Training vs Trying“, and at the very end of that post, my husband challenged me to train for a marathon. Well, after watching the women run the Olympic marathon in 2 1/2 hours (running 5:30 minute miles!!) I thought to myself, “Why the HECK would I want to run for that long?” So Jason modified his challenge, and suggested I start with 1 mile. Since I’d never done that before, I thought that would be a great idea!! Okay, not really a great idea, but I knew that it would be healthy for my heart and lungs.
Well, last week, Jason and I attempted our first run. We mapped out a route close to our house (Check out the nifty map below… our full mile will take us along Bay Ave from S. Inlet Drive to almost Corson’s Inlet bridge.)
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It’s a lovely road. Our landmark for our 1/2 mile turning point is a telephone pole - the first one after the guard rail ends, in case you were wondering.
So. Last week we began our training, and here’s how it went… I complained and tried to stop about every 30 seconds that first day running, but Jason tried to encourage me to not speak negativity into my run. By doing so, I’m convincing myself that I can’t do it, and already willing myself to fail. He kept telling me to pick something in the distance to run for, pick a goal. Well, we didn’t make it very far that first day - and a lot of the distance was spent walking - but at least it was a start.
This past Monday evening was our second attempt at running. I did not want to go. I was tired, it was humid out, and I was in no mood to run. But, without putting up much of a fight, when Jason said, “Let’s go,” I put my running shoes on.
This time it was different. I refused to voice my complaints. Sure, I felt the pain in my side, I was out of breath, and was sweating profusely, but I refused to speak negativity into this run. Instead, I allowed Jason’s even pace to steady my own gait, I focused my eyes on the guard rail waaaay in the distance, and concentrated on my breathing. Whenever I felt like giving up and stopping, I looked ahead at my goal, noticing how much closer it appeared. Before long, it had arrived! I couldn’t believe that I had run for as long as I did, and without complaining even once!
We walked the rest of the way to our 1/2 mile mark, turned around, and walked back to the guard rail. By this time, I had almost caught my breath, and Jason said that we’ll run as much as I could on the way back. I looked to see what I would set my eyes on to be my goal this time. “The third telephone pole? No, too close. The fifth? Well, at that point, I might as well run the whole way back! Hmm… the whole way? Can I do it? The street light all the way at the bend in the road … it will be my beacon. I won’t stop… I won’t stop…” And with that light as my goal, I ran all the way to the end of our route. It definitely got harder the further I ran. I was breathing hard, with a sharp pain in my side, and my left sneaker chafing my heel, but as that light got closer, I knew I couldn’t give up! I pressed on, reaching for that goal and the satisfaction in knowing that I had run harder and faster than I ever had in my life!
Why do you think Paul used the analogy of running a race to compare the Christian life to? Because, well, life is hard (so is running), but both have something great to look forward to: the finish line! The prize!
As we were running the other night, my husband Jason (the analogy king) began to compare my struggle with running not just to life - but to marriage!
How often do we get tired as we run through married life? Maybe you want to call it quits. You feel the pain and frustration, and feel that if you stop - if you remove yourself from the source of that pain - things will feel so much better. However, is quitting really beneficial in the long term? Quitting running wouldn’t benefit my health, and neither will quitting marriage. I think the problem is not so much the temporary pain that we feel - it’s the fact that we’re FOCUSED on that pain!
Let’s look at the difference between my first and second days of running: Day 1 my focus was on my body’s aches and discomforts. I complained each step of the way, and basically talked myself out of a successful run. Day 2, I still felt those aches and pains - actually even more so because I pushed my body harder - but I fixed my eyes on a goal and refused to let negativity bring me down. In fact, I actually began to enjoy my run, believe it or not!
Now let’s look at a marriage in that same way. The wife in Marriage 1 is focused on her husband’s shortcomings. She complains that he doesn’t pick up after himself, he snores, and has gained 10 pounds since their marriage. Maybe he’s not a Christian, or at least isn’t being the Spiritual leader she wants him to be. Because of her criticisms and complaints (and probably nagging), they fight a lot and are often unhappy with each other. This wife might think that being single would be so much better than being in a miserable marriage. She dislikes being married, and she’s ready to quit.
The wife in Marriage 2 recognizes that her husband has shortcomings also. He snores, he doesn’t pick up after himself, he’s gained weight (while she’s kept herself fit), and he’s not the Spiritual leader she’s envisioned he’d be before they were married. However, she doesn’t allow herself to focus on those things. She refuses to give Satan a foothold in her marriage by voicing her negativities. Instead, she fixes her eyes on Christ, and allows the Holy Spirit to empower her to be the best wife she possibly can be. Because of her focus, she is able to love her husband and have a joyful marriage.
Maybe you want to be the wife in Marriage 2, but you’ve been acting like the first wife instead. It’s not too late to change, you know. I think Paul knew that people would feel that way, because of what he writes in Philippians 3:13-14…
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Did you catch that? “Forgetting what is behind,” he said. *Forget your past, forget how you behaved yesterday, forget all the complaints you already voiced today! Forget all that, and instead “strain towards what is ahead” - a better marriage, a happier husband, a life that is pleasing to the Lord.
*By “forget” I don’t mean to go on as if the past didn’t hurt. You and your husband may need to heal, forgive each other, and move on slowly from this. By “forget” I do mean to not wallow in guilt forever, or go on the way you’ve been out of habit. By “forget” I do mean for you to change, stop living in the past, and stop reliving and wallowing in all the things you’ve done wrong!
One more thing I would like to leave you with, and that is this: The thing that makes running easier, living life easier, and succeeding at marriage easier is what your goal is. What are you fixing your eyes on? If it is something earthly, like a happy marriage, a better life, or anything BUT Jesus Christ, you will fall short of the ultimate goal, which is pleasing God.
Look at Hebrews 12:1-2…
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [see Hebrews 11], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Remember, Jesus endured the cross for us, knowing the joy it would bring for those He loved. Let us run with perseverance in our marriage, allowing God to give us joy throughout it all! We don’t run just to suffer, but to make us stronger, better wives.
Keep on running, and keep on striving!!
I’d love to hear your “running” stories…. whether in your marriage, your personal walk with God, or even physical running! Leave your comments below!