Half-marathon training is prime character development for me. I have two hours every Saturday devoted to nothing but running; running a stupid long distance. This past Saturday, it was ten miles. Thankfully the sun was shining and the temperatures were in the forties, a huge relief from the frigid wind chills throughout the entire month of February. But even in optimal conditions, there is a reason why Paul uses the metaphor of racing to help his audiences understand faith throughout the New Testament. Because it is all hard, because it takes commitment, and because at some point throughout the training or a faith journey, you are going to want to give up.
Starting can be easy. You know where you are headed and the tank is full of gas. In fact, the first half can feel like a piece of cake, but then the excitement wears off, the fatigue sets in and the wind is in your face. Will you press on? Will you keep running? Will you honor the commitment? What if no one is watching? Endurance. It is a word that my roommate and I have been talking a lot about this year. It is becoming a theme, and a lesson. The Lord is truly pressing it into me in order to cultivate it in me. Developing a mature and complete faith and walking closely with Jesus for a lifetime – these are the goals. While I will never fully attain them this side of heaven, endurance is the way to cultivate these things. Endurance is a way of the Kingdom.
I’ve written previously about how badly I want to quit when things get tough. I just want to throw in the towel, and be done. I have a flair for the dramatic, so I don’t just bow out gracefully, I go kicking and screaming. However, God faithfully provides strength to endure, whether it is to the finish or just the next mile marker where motivation is in greater supply. Sometimes the strength is encouragement from a close friend, or a well-timed bonus, or a sudden burst of energy, but when it comes, it is a good and perfect gift from above.
Usually when the resistance feels the greatest, you’re the closest to a breakthrough.
Right before I hit my rhythm on a long run is when I want to quit. My muscles are starting to burn and I can’t get in my groove, maybe I’ll just go a shorter distance, or maybe I’ll just slow down. But then I put one foot in front of another, keep on keeping on and then the breakthrough hits. I remember why I’m running, what the goal is, and I recount the ways that God has been faithful in the past. His commitment to me enables me to renew my commitment to the task in front of me.
When you want to give up, it is commitment that keeps you going. For me, the commitment is not just a half-marathon on the calendar, but it’s the commitment to the spirit of endurance that the Lord is cultivating in me. I am confident that He has called me to persevere even when it is hard, even when it hurts, even when the finish line is not in sight. So I press on.