I've been giving this question some thought recently, especially today. I went for a great run with my good friend Jake for a few repeats up K2. As always, we talked about many things even as we ran up this monster. Just a side note, this man is an incredibly strong runner and is putting in over 30 summits of this monster hill k2 this week. Thats insane, but then again both runners of his calibre and Christians alike (which he is both) are often considered insane by the teeming masses. Anyhow, I was going to leave this subject for tomorrow or maybe Saturday to write about, but two things happened that influenced me to write now. First as I sat at the table with my father and sister playing cards I talked a little about Jake and the running we get to do together whenever I'm in the area. In short he asked me this very question on how Jake integrates his faith with what he is doing, namely running as he is a sponsored runner by New Balance of Roseville. The second was Jake's recent blog which inclined me to write my own thoughts! To be honest I couldn't decide where to put this, on my other blog or on this one since it is a synthesis of the two areas of my thoughts, which is actually part of the topic! Let us move on to what I actually want to talk about, faith and running.
North Americans have a nasty habit of compartmentalizing life. Work is separate from home life which is separate from going out with friends to the bar which is separate from sports which is different from Church, and the list goes on. We often don't like parts of our lives to bleed over into other parts as things tend to get messy when they do. Its because we are living inconsistent lives. But if we try to live a unified life that is consistent throughout then we inevitably, for believers and ultimately anyone of any faith, must deal with the issue of living for God in all areas of our lives. I just want to focus on one, running. At first glance there doesn't seem to really be any way to integrate the two, after all what does running have to do with God? More than initially meets the eye.
A life of faith is not lived in a bubble. True faith requires interaction on a horizontal line between the believer and other human beings as well as in a vertical way between the believer and God. As such faith is based on relationships. After all, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 22:37-40. This is the basis for authentic faith. So then you might ask, "What running have to do with relationships?" Everything. Ask anyone who is a runner why they started running, and if you dig deep enough the reason is always because of another person. It may be a crush they had on someone in high school or a hero they had growing up. Like me it may have been because of their parents, or even if they're doing it to stay in shape or become more healthy it is because of what others have said about their health or some other influence outside themselves. Noone starts running from a purely inward motivation. More than that, running is a social sport more than people realize. There is a camaraderie between runners to the point where I can meet someone completely new and have an instant connection to that person and hold a great conversation because we share this trait. This camaraderie moves to the point that in most cases I am willing to listen, at length, to whatever a runner has to say even when I strongly disagree. I assume it is likewise with most runners. I also run the best when running with others rather than by myself. I run by myself to keep me ready for the times when I run with others. My point is that running is social and relational far more than people generally realize, and relationships are the foundation for faith and for expressing the character and glory of God to those who do not yet know him.
There is another aspect to this which is that running is a gift. Our bodies are gifts from God and each person's body is different with different innate abilities and different levels of those abilities. Each is a gift. When we receive a gift we have two basic choices, use the gift or don't use it. I think we can all agree that not using a gift that has been given is a waste and dishonorable to the giver of that gift (think about it, you don't tell your relatives you don't particularly care for greeting cards because of the disrespect it shows towards them). When we use the gift we can either use it for ourselves or use it for someone else. For others is more noble I think most would agree, though most people use their gifts and abilities for themselves more often. However, I think the noblest is to use the gift for and in the name of the one who gave the gift and giving credit to the giver. In short it means glorifying God and acknowledging His sovereignty in the giving of your gifts. If you want to see how this can practically play out in a person's life I recommend watching the movie, "Chariots of Fire."
There is one final area I would like to address while I'm at it, namely the subject of character. A follower seeks to be more like the one they follow. Inevitably that means a follower of Jesus will grow ever more like in character to Jesus. This is done is so many different ways as God guides us through life. However, running can be a very effective tool for building many character qualities in us from Jesus our Lord. Running builds endurance, long-suffering, perseverance, discipline, delayed gratification, determination, reverence, humility, confidence, and a great many more as well. No wonder Paul compared life to running a race. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24 "I went in response to a revelation and, meeting privately with those esteemed as leaders, I presented to them the gospel that I preach among the Gentiles. I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain." Galatians 2:2 "You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?" Galatians 5:7 "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." 2 Timothy 4:7. Then there is in Hebrews 12:1-3 which some believe that Paul also wrote though we cannot be certain, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." This metaphor would seem to be some evidence towards that assertion, but that is an entirely different subject! The metaphor is well enough established in the Bible because there is in fact a strong connection between running and faith. There are also strong connections between all the areas of our lives and faith, if you have the eyes to see it.
For His Glorious Name,