You Have to Train Before You Run the Race

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.)

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11 comments

  1. I love how you’ve taught your son to pray in specifics. Prayer is the main spiritual discipline that I have focused on with my children. We naturally turn to it as individuals and as a family in times of joy or sorrow. Bible memorization has been a close second as it teaches us how and what to pray. Keep up the good work with your little lambs.

    Blessings ~ Wendy

    1. Thank you! They are precious lambs! I love praying together as a family!

  2. A few years back the newspaper ran a front page story of an old gentleman who was last to finish a popular marathon held here every year. He came in before dusk, hours after the winners and nearly all the runners had already made it to the end. The way he made it was with a runner on each side who bore him up and got him through the finish line! It made me think how we don’t give up; we keep going even when things are rough.

    We keep encouraging each other to keep our sights on our heavenly reward, the finish line. We keep up our prayers, try our best to be good role models, etc. and hang on to the promise of Proverbs 22:6. Such an unbelievable blessing was ours when we saw an adult child return back to church after many years of shunning anything that had to do with God, church and religion. God commands us to TRAIN OUR CHILDREN, e.g. take a look at Deut 6:4-9. As the children get older they learn that we will not allow certain TV shows, witchcraft and Harry Potter books, worldly music, etc. through our doors and gates (vs 9). Our home is God’s home. God bless you!
    ~Liz

    1. I love the image of being held up by others when we are weary and broken. I have thankfully seen this in friendships and in my marriage! God uses our prayers and words and deeds to help each other carry on!

      Yes, raising children to follow the narrow path often means stepping away from what is “popular”. And, praise the Lord for the child you spoke of who became part of the blessed flock after all. There is nothing too hard for grace! Thank you for encouraging me to keep praying for loved ones who have heard the good news, but have yet to claim it as their own!

  3. Thanks once again for more inspiration. It has been a hard couple of weeks for me and I feel quite physically weak. I could use a pair of eagles wings. I need to pray more and draw on God’s strength. Thanks for the nudge! xx Rowena

    1. In our weakness, his strength is perfect! The verse you alluded to in Isaiah is one my husband and I turn to often. What hope! I pray you find the rest and refreshment you seek!

  4. What a perfect way to put it! Parenting is very much like training. It is constantly about stretching ourselves and keeping consistent. On the days that I am tired it truly reflects on how my children behave. The next day I have to pick myself up and get us going again like a team!

    1. Oh, my true heart is on blazing display for my children…and if I have not nourished myself wholly, it is very apparent! No movement closer to God is ever in vain!

  5. Great post. The Lord is always waiting, and listening for a call of prayer when you’re tired. Thanks for sharing, Be Blessed, Mtetar

    1. Prayer is always available, this is such a wonderful truth! Every time we realize our need, grace has the opportunity to fill us! Thanks for your visit and comment. I hope you’re having a good week!

      1. I’m so grateful that each day I see is beyond good, it is Blessedly. To be unemployed for three years is nothing but God’s Grace. I’m thankful for the strength he gives me to carry on each day. Thank you for always posting in reference to The Lord. Kind regards to your family. Be Blessed, Mtetar

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