I named my blog “Running the Race” in tribute to a favorite Bible verse from the book of Hebrews (ch. 12, v. 1) and also in reference to a lifelong love of running.
Literally speaking, running–and with long distances especially–many miles and hours go into building up endurance, power, and speed. This is called “training”, and it is the part of the race that few or no people witness. However, if an athlete neglects training, his or her performance in a race will surely reflect that. I ran winter track in high school, and since I lived in the North, most of our practices were to run down a school hallway, up a flight of stairs, across that hallway, then back down the stairs. Lap after knee-crushing lap, we got the mileage in without braving sub-freezing conditions outside. No one enjoyed doing hill repeats when we did go outside, but I remember doing them and thinking about the results they would help to yield. I miss the discipline and joy of daily running, as I continued to train on my own during college and before becoming a parent. I followed a marathon training plan with my dad, and we would run together over my summer break or run in separate cities, comparing routes and encouraging each other. Missing too many of the training days would leave us ill-prepared for our big, 26.2 mile day! (For the record, we finished a sleety Houston marathon in about four hours and twenty minutes, 16 years ago.)
As I’ve grown as a follower of Jesus, these principles of training are still true and valuable. Instead of daily runs, there is daily prayer, reading of the Bible, giving of our time and resources. Unlike running, however, there are no limitations on time or energy spent: I believe that when one truly discovers the depth of God’s love, one stops counting things like minutes or pages or days, and just does those things as a reflection of love entering the heart!
Our hearts are fickle, however. Yes, love spurs us on, but we do need to keep ourselves in check if we want to see spiritual growth. Just like in my track or marathon training, I would see my muscles become weaker and less effective, the less I used them, it is the same in my heart: when I neglect prayer and repentance, or giving thanks, or seeking wisdom in reading or meeting with others, or giving of myself to those around me, my heart becomes weak and useless.
All of this is fresh in my mind because of the verse we read as a family this evening: from the book of Proverbs, ch. 22, verse 6: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” As soon as I read it aloud to my children, I felt all over again the huge weight of responsibility that parents bear. Who our children will be as adults has so much to do with what paths we are guiding them to now! It is true that the very best parents can do, does not always lead children to follow that same good path, but we would be disobeying God to lead our children down the wrong path!
I listened with joy in my heart as our son prayed before bed for himself and his little sister to keep going along in the right way, and for us as parents to keep training them and guiding them. Yes, it is a huge undertaking, but we are not alone as parents. We have a perfect Father in heaven who knows our failings, shortcomings, weaknesses, all of it. He knows we need Him as much as our little ones do. I am thrilled at the idea of running this race together as a family.
My prayer as a parent is to acknowledge daily (sometimes hourly) my need for grace and mercy from God. Living in response to that, I hope to point my children down that path as well. One more verse just came to mind that seems to fit in with what I’m trying to express: “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” (Psalm 119:32) There are so many references throughout the Bible about walking, running, paths, feet, stumbling, firm footsteps–my runner’s heart loves these illustrations!
–What kind of training are you doing? If you are a parent, what is your “training plan” for your little ones?
–What are your favorite “daily disciplines” to keep your family’s spiritual muscles strong?
I pray for all who have taken on this enormous privilege and weight of parenting: it is not easy! These things can be easy to talk about, but putting in the time every day, and fueling our hearts and minds with the right things takes a lot of wisdom and determination. Don’t grow weary, parents…but when you do feel weary, fall to your knees and admit it before God! He is our sustainer and will give us wisdom and strength!
(A special thanks to *my* parents, who led me in the way I should go faithfully and lovingly.)