Monday, November 12, 2012

Ragnarian Philosophy

I've been doing a lot more running lately since being roped into this race called Ragnar. :) I've thoroughly enjoyed training my body to be able to withstand further and further distances at greater and greater speeds. I laugh to myself the day of long runs as my knees (and my lungs and my back and my abs and just about everything else) recover from whatever I just did to them. I relish shorter tempo runs, as my body is naturally more built for speed than for distance. I live for competition, whether against myself or others. I frankly don't care how well someone else is doing, so long as I, for my part, am doing well. So you might say running suits me. For now. At least until I can't bear the thought of my newly developed cankles getting any more pronounced. ;)

But while running, at least for little lone ladies like myself who run where other people are, you often see others at the same toilsome task as you. The competitor in me automatically intakes the details of how fast they are going, how fit they appear, whether I could outrun or outlast them, their age, and so on. It's inherent. How do I rank? But what I have had to remember from the beginning, perhaps particularly in running, is that there is my race and there is not-my-race.

Everyone else is running not-my-race.

Because little Susie Speed Demon who just outpaced me may be doing a speed trial the day I am doing a long run. Or when I bound past Simon Slowpoke, I may not know that he's already 10 miles into his run when I'm only 2.5 into mine. I don't know where the other runners around me have been or where they are going, so to compare myself to them may be a lot like comparing apples and oranges. The only day I know exactly where they're going and where they've been is race day, and even then I have to focus on my race, not theirs.

Oh isn't it the same in life.

Hebrews 12:1 carries new meaning for me lately:
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.

That phrase gets me: The race marked out for us. It is long and will require perseverance for all of us. But the race that is marked out for me is different than the race that is marked out for you. Where has God called you? I can guarantee that it is not where he has called me. He calls some to be nurses, and others to be truck drivers, others to be pastors, and still others to be scientists. He calls some to start families and others to simply serve the family of God. He puts certain people in each of our paths that we relate to differently than any other. We have a race marked out for us, and the only place you are going to find your course map is in the hands of God. If you keep looking to other runners or trying to run your course like they are running theirs, you'll probably trip up sooner or later, or just plain run out of wind.

So much like the people that I pass at the park or on the trail, let's all encourage one another to run separately, together. There are various principles about running as a discipline that could apply to any one of us. But there are also specifications about where I am running and for how far and under which conditions that will differ from me to you. Let's all push one another and encourage each other to stretch our capacities and run to the best of our ability, but let's give ourselves and others the blessed freedom to run our own race. Amen?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

How to Be a Friend

I have a great friend named Nicky, who frequently wakes up with me at ungodly hours of the morning to get out and exercise.

Let me tell you, if you want to get to know someone, go do something painful with them. Guaranteed! It usually goes something like this: Half the time, we already stink before we've worked out, hair askew, makeup nonexistent, just a couple bleary-eyed friends hitting the trail together (or the road, or the really steep hill).

We struggle together. We laugh together. There are no limits to what we can talk about with one another. We get stinky and sweaty together. We are not pretty when we finish. Heck, we're not pretty when we start! We're not dainty or gracious. Nicky admits from time to time to plotting my demise when we ("we") decide to bound up steep rocky trails. (I know I'm in trouble when the flames start to shoot out of her eyes.) She's an amazing sport, and has an iron will far stronger than mine. She tells me to go back to bed when I am grouchy and sleep deprived. She demonstrates a grace of person that I strive to have. And sometimes, when it's cold and rainy (like this morning), we say, "Forget it" and get coffee instead.

For these reasons and many others, I adore this friendship in my life. It's just real. We're ready to stand up for one another, and even to put one another in awkward situations we know the other needs. We endeavor to both ask the hard questions of one another and answer when called upon. We know that the love that cements our friendship can withstand any awkwardness or shortcoming. I've said this before, but there's just no place for fakeness in my friendships anymore, and my friendship with this particular lady helps me to see what friendship can be. If we're living life together, then let's live life together...unmanicured, undoctored. And while this does not mean that every inch of our friendships has to be so raw and meaningful (laughter is a good thing!), it does mean that we should be committed to real, open, honest, life-giving community. Are you with me?

 Here we are, pretending to be classy and normal, as we always are when we're together. ;)

Or we could admit that it's usually like this!

I love this girl.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Just a Lovers' Spat

There is a strong temptation only to write when I have an idea pinned. Only after I have thoroughly examined it, understood it, and considered it do I think about sharing it. But that's not always how life works. Sometimes you just have to be where you are, even if you haven't entirely figured that place out yet.

Well, I've been in this place the last week or two where I've just been tired. Several times I've thought I was getting sick with some cold. I've been ravenous about spare time, and insatiable in sleep. But mostly I've felt sassy and entitled and proud, perhaps as a response to the previous. Suddenly my attitude begins to appear as, I'll do as I please, thank you very much. 

So basically, I've been a brat.

These little rebellions don't happen too infrequently in my heart - when I know very well that my attitude is flaring, and I equally know that I don't care to do anything about it. It is at these precise junctures that I tend to have very honest and interesting conversations with God, because it's usually a contention between the two of us that takes center stage, or more precisely, a contention with me that I would like to "take up" with him. The thing that astounds me though is that even in my most tempestuous outbreaks, God is always and has always been graceful. No joke, right at my brattiest I'll get a call from a good friend who "felt like they needed to call" or something will happen in provision that shows me that God is there all the more in my anger - even my anger at him - loving me just the same. I guess he's not intimidated by my surliness. :)

Don't get me wrong, I deeply love God, and I know that my hurtful and ungrateful words are aimed at a perfect loving faithful friend, which is why these little fights catch my heart so. A person told me recently that I believe in fairy tales because I believe God...if even my arguments with God are any indication, though, I respectfully beg to differ.

This most recent "talk" with God left me with a new impression on the whole thing. Imagine you married someone who contracted a terrible mental condition that made them mean and unpredictable and at times even hateful. Imagine that sometimes you saw the person you knew and loved shining through, and yet at others it was obscured by their disease. In a way...that's what happened to God. He created and chose and covenanted with a people He dearly loved - who then contracted a soul-deep sin condition. In our condition, we lash out, we run away, we no longer want to be near our loving Creator. Can you imagine God's heart? It's like, when I'm in the middle of telling God that I don't want to spend any time with Him, He's saying softly, "But I remember you before you got sick..."

And the crazy thing is, He does. He knows us before sickness, before sin - and He knows us at the end of all things when we are redeemed. He knows who we really are, even when we're not acting like it. In a very real way, Christ knows us better than we know ourselves, because He knows us without sin. He knows us without this disease.

So think about that, and think about that when you interact with others. How are you helping them to be who they really are? How are you letting God show you who you really are?