|Photo Credit: Denny Witte|
Running does however have some wonderful applications for our lives. We could consider the endurance element and what that can teach us about perseverance during difficult days. We could think on the fitness element and the benefits and even good feelings that can bring. One of my personal favorites is the outdoors aspect. I’m an avid trail runner and particularly enjoy partaking of our Michigan State Parks. Pinckney State Rec Area is one of my favorites. There is something refreshing and graceful about our trails and our woods and seeing small lakes along the way. Just so long as the mosquitos and black flies stay away!
I was sharing with my congregation at Grace recently about one of the joys of running races and something refreshing I’ve experienced in races. We’ve all seen what competition can do to our lives. It can be a good thing when it drives us to excel and push to new heights. Without the competitive atmosphere that was present in the space race of the 1960s, one wonders if we ever would have been willing to risk so much to get to the moon. But competition can also bring out so much bad in us. The drive to win can lead us to paths in which we’re deadset on destroying and climbing over anyone who gets in our way.
While there are also good and bad competitors in running, my experience has brought me a refreshing set of good examples. When I’ve run races I have found that the vast majority of participants are out there to compete against themselves. They’re looking to just finish or to set a personal best or even just to have fun. I’ve also witnessed an amazing mindset of camaraderie and love in races. When a runner stumbles and falls on a root or a rock along the trail, other runners will stop and assist. They’ll sacrifice seconds, minutes of their time in their own race to help another. That is a beautiful thing to me. This type of running a race isn’t a cutthroat competition to tear others down and win at all costs, it’s a race in which the desire becomes to help others reach the same finish line you’re striving to make.
Imagine if we all lived our lives in such a way, if we weren’t concerned with getting ahead of someone else, if we weren’t set to tearing others down so we can gain. Instead, we look to sacrifice a bit of ourselves, even bringing ourselves down that we might lift another person up. That’s true love right there.
The book of Hebrews in the Bible reminds us that that is the life lived by Jesus in His earthly ministry. Hebrews 12:1 and following: “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…” Jesus is the Son of God who came “not to be served but to serve” (Mk 10:45). What if we ran this race of life looking not to beat everyone else along the way, but to lift others up when they stumble, to help others along who grow weary, and work to see that all make that finish line together, showing a heavy dose of loving care along the way.
To God be the glory.
Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org