Two years ago I trained for the Chicago Marathon. And, I never made it to the starting line.
While I've run a number of half marathons in the past, the Chicago Marathon would have been by far my longest race to date. Although there were many months in-between when I started training and October (race month), it was still very hard to imagine how I'd ever be able to run 26.2 miles! That being said, I knew that I wasn’t going to get there in a day. However, in the end, injuries to my training partner and the busyness of life prevented me from even reaching the starting line.
When it comes to physical training, you can't force growth to happen - it takes time and consistent commitment. It's an everyday kind of thing. As my cousin (a perennial marathoner with an PR of 2.5 hours) described to me, all healthy development involves periods of exercise and intentional periods of rest. You can't simply do one long run on the weekend and then expect your muscles and habits to mature in positive ways throughout the rest of the week. You will get hurt. Additionally, you don't want to be doing the same thing all the time. Instead, by introducing different types of activities, such as strength training, you actually decrease the risk of injury and increase your speed and power. What can we learn from marathon training (even when we don’t quite make it)?
There Are No Shortcuts: Shortcuts don't work when it comes to marathon training and they don’t work when it comes to our spiritual training either. Why do I find myself thinking it might? Maybe we find ourselves hoping that attending church on Sundays or even an ELI team meeting will alone sustain our growth throughout the week. Perhaps we seek out worship gatherings, conferences, or retreat weekends as our primary way to walk with God. These are all good things except when they replace the real thing, a daily and personal relationship with Jesus. The highs can be high, but the lows will be equally as low. The path to authentic, lasting, and eternal growth is not easy, however, it's the only one that leads to life to the fullest.
Schedule Rest: From the beginning, God modeled a picture of work and rest (Exodus 20:8-11). As ones made in His image, it's incredible to think about how our biology likewise speaks to this truth: we need rest. Out of the twenty-four hours in a day, we generally spend 33% of them asleep. In training, it is often during times of rest that the true growth occurs. In your marathon of life, do you schedule times of rest? What is restful for you; what allows you to be renewed, repaired, and restored?
Don't Skip Leg Day: As one who has been to a gym, this is a real thing. Do we approach our growth holistically? When we are focusing intently on working out our spiritual health, we should consider this creatively and also be working out aspects of our mental, emotional, physical, relational, and financial health. Each of these health areas are intimately interconnected and ignoring any area can result in a damaging in-balance in life and impact our ability to serve God's Kingdom well. Are there areas of your holistic health that you've neglected during your current season? Where are your sources of pain?
Let's say no to quick fixes and simply “living for the weekend”. As followers of Christ, we live for the everyday. We are in this to finish strong and we run for an eternal purpose:
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and 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, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted" (Hebrews 12:1-2).