"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 perfected if 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."
In January of 2002, I decided to run a marathon – not a 10k or a half-marathon, but the full 26.2 miles. I knew that this would be a test of my endurance and my strength, but most if all, I knew it would be a test of my commitment and dedication to achieving this goal.
There were a few things that I was fairly positive of going into it. First, I knew that I couldn’t do it alone. The farthest I had run was about 3 miles with my high school cross country team, and that was more than 10 years before. I went to the gym regularly and tried to take decent care of myself, but I knew nothing about how to train my body and my mind for such a feat. So, I sought out a team to train with and inhaled as much literature as I could find about running. I looked to those who had gone the distance before me, in order to learn how to train and how to adjust my lifestyle to achieve optimal results.
I was blessed with an incredible coach, who had completed over twenty marathons, and one of the things that he enforced over and over again, was that if we were really serious about completing the full 26.2 miles, we would have to give up certain things. Number one on the list was processed foods. No soda, no white rice, no candy bars, no white pastas or breads. Yeah, at that time, processed foods constituted the entirety of my diet, so I realized that if I was serious about this pursuit, my diet was in for a serious overhaul. The second thing he enforced was focused and positive thinking. We were never to think the words “I can’t”, but we had to stay focused on thoughts of “I can” – no matter what. And, finally, one of his last pieces of advice was when running uphill, don’t look up, or to the right or to the left, but always stay focused on the spot ten feet directly in front of you. He said that if we always concentrated on reaching that point, then before we knew it, we would be at the top of the hill, and the hard part would be behind us.
For five months, I followed all of his advice. I gave up processed foods. I thought only the words, “I can”. And, I always focused on that spot in front if me when running uphill. I also attended every practice, even the ones at 5 am, when it was still dark and cold. Was it easy? Of course not! But, was it worth it? Absolutely! Because in June of 2002, I completed that marathon. I ran all 26.2 miles, without stopping, with thousands of people running the journey with me, and thousands cheering us on. My coach even ran up and down the marathon trail, encouraging us along the way! What’s more is the moment I crossed the finish line, I felt a visceral joy that I don’t even have the words to describe.
I am convinced that our spiritual journey is very similar to my marathon experience. First, we can not do this alone and we can not do this without help. We were designed to exist within a spiritual team with Jesus Christ as our head coach. Just like my marathon coach, He has gone before us, for “He is the author and finisher of our faith”. And, just like my marathon coach, He runs right there beside us, encouraging and comforting us along the way. As we read and study His word, He urges us to give up certain things, or “the sin that so easily besets us”, and He promises that an unspeakable joy awaits us right here, right now, and for eternity.
I challenge you today to start each day focused on Christ. Begin with a prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to lead you every step of the way. Right now, turn your back on anything in your life that is not pleasing to Him, and run the race that He has set before you. I promise, if you do this, you will never be the same again.
Dawn Harrison has been attending the Journey for four years, works downtown as a structural engineer and co-leads the Journey Design Team. (She would love to recruit you to this awesome team, if you’re interested). She is also the mother of an incredible 8-year old girl who reminds her daily that God’s grace is enough.