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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Endurance Training

I just joined a gym a week or so ago and got a complimentary training assessment.  There was a place on the assessment form that asked if you were actively participating in any sport:  soccer, baseball, etc.  I kind of skimmed over it and, not seeing an option for "running," I thought the answer was a definite no.  I have never been one for team sports.  I have a lot of heart but a complete lack of hand-eye coordination.  So, while I was talking with the trainer, I was surprised that when he got to that portion of my assessment he put a check mark.  It was in front of "endurance training."  

I admit that I felt a little puffed up for a moment.  That sounds tough, doesn't it?  "Endurance training."  It makes me think of marathons and Ironman competitions.  It is not what I think of when I'm huffing and puffing along, struggling just to complete a two mile run.  But what is the saying?  "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  I took a moment to let myself feel proud, to feel like an athlete.  

Endurance is not just for athletes, though.  It's for all of us.  I remember one doctor's words when Eddie was just a few days old and I had spent all but a couple of hours sitting on a stool next to his crib in the NICU.  He told me to go back to the Ronald McDonald house and try to get some rest.  "This is a marathon, not a sprint," he said.  Those words stuck with me.  It think back on them often.  He was right.  It was a marathon and it required a crazy kind of endurance.

Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also set aside every weight, and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us."  That great cloud he is referring to is a long list of faith-filled people that were listed in Hebrews 11.  We're talking Moses, Abraham, etc.  To me it seems that he is saying that those people are watching over us, cheering us on if you will, waiting to see what we do with the path that has been given us.

Some of us are lucky enough to have stumbled upon the truth of God, how great it is to live our lives for Him, how rewarding it is to run His race.  We do well to remember this verse, to set aside the weights of our anxieties, our plans and our egos.  To disentangle ourselves from our sins and get running!  But as with everything else, it is finally our choice.  There are far too many people who might start out strong but when it gets hard, they quit.  They sit on the curb (or in front of their TVs) and let the rest of the runners pass them by, never knowing what blessings were ahead of them on the course.  Others never even get past the start line.  

We all know the excuses.  Most of us have rehearsed them ourselves a few time.  "God, this isn't fair."  "God, it's too hard."  "God, anything but this!"  They all boil down to a version of "I can't."  But the Bible says we can do all things through Christ.  So that means, if God has set a course for you, "I can't" is really "I won't."

I don't mean to get preachy.  I just feel passionately about this subject because if I can get off my tush, trash  my excuses, and run my life with endurance ANYBODY can.  I am a least likely candidate.  I had a challenging childhood, a raging addiction, poor health, and then I lost a child.  No one would blame me if I curled up in a ball and refused to get out of bed for the next decade or so.  I have the perfect excuse to quit:  my baby died.  But I didn't and I don't.  I make a conscious decision every day to get up, get moving, throw of the weight of grief and self-pity, refuse the sin of disobedience, and run, run, run.  Sometimes with joy, sometimes with pain, but always moving forward, seeking what's next, looking up at the One who keeps me moving against all odds.

No one said this life thing was going to be easy.  Just like literal running, there are times when it hurts like hell. I don't approach the finish line of races feeling like a million bucks.  More often than not my lungs are on fire, my legs feel like lead, and I'm trying not to puke.  But the moment I'm across that line, I know that I accomplished something.  That I pushed my limits, got out of my comfort zone, and DID something.  That's what I want my life to look like too.  When my baby left this world, it felt like the bottom dropped out of everything, but I didn't give up.  I knew I had run a good race with Eddie, that I had done everything I could do, that I never gave up or let him down, that I left it all on the track.  It makes it easier to live my day to day now, free of regrets.  I could have quit the moment they told me his prognosis.  I could have killed myself, checked into a mental hospital, or hit the nearest bar.  In many ways, that would have been the easier route, but when I think of all the blessings, all the joy, I would have missed, I can't imagine taking that course.

Eddie's death wasn't the finish line for me; it was just another starting gate.  I've got lots more years to run and I want to run them strong, delighting in the capability God has given me to do anything He wants me to do and just praying and powering through the times when it all seems too much.  I want to tune in to the great cloud of witnesses watching me and cheering me on.  I never want to stop my endurance training because I want to be ready for the next challenge.  I want to answer every call that God places on my life, every obstacle he asks me conquer with a confident, "I will."  I want to cross that final finish line knowing that I did something, that I accomplished what God put me on this earth to do.  Free from regrets, ready for glory.

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