Sometimes I hesitate to tell people that I am a runner. I fear the assumptions that may be made once they hear me describe myself as “one who runs”. Do you run five miles every day of the week? Through rain, snow, and wind? Not usually, but I have before. Are you always training for a race or a marathon? No, not very often, but I have before, and I’m glad I did. Do you always dress like a runner, in the best running shoes and subscribe to the latest magazines and have a treadmill in your basement? No, spandex has never been a friend of mine, I don’t do the magazine thing and I’ve been unable to afford the treadmill as of yet. See how disappointing that can be? But still, I am a runner in my own right.
I began running in college, when life was scheduled, predictable and my time was literally my time. I started to lay a foundation of caring for my body in a way that honored the temple that was on loan to me. Paul reminds us, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV) Running seemed to be the one thing I could do anytime, anywhere and at my own speed. No one was going to tell me to run longer, or faster, or better. It was up to me to do what I could, or what I wanted to aspire to. And honoring God? At that time in my life, it was nothing but God that gave me the strength and stamina to learn how to run. Coming from a history of never running farther than the mailbox, running for several miles at a time was quite a feat. God had instilled in me that spirit of determination and power that I had never discovered before. Every time I would wrap up a good run, I was left in awe of what my Creator made me capable of completing. At this stage of my life, I not only thought I was a runner, I looked and acted like a runner too.
Just like many of the routes I run, my running life has had its ups and downs. Some months I have been very consistent, running almost every day. Just like the flat roads of Northern Indiana where I run, my running has been pretty steady and stable at these times. Other times, maybe an injury or even pregnancy puts things on hold for a while. Then my running goes down hill and I take a break for a time being. I may not be actively running, but I am still a runner. You see, running can be a bit like learning to ride a bike. Once you get a taste for the ease and speed a bike gives you, you never want to go back. Why would I want the inconvenience of my three year olds training wheels when I know how to bike like a “big girl”? Or why would I want to walk when I could run?
Breaking free from some of these assumptions that people can put on runners has been a difficult task for me. If I am going to call myself a runner, then don’t I have to at least aspire to be like Jackie Joyner-Kersey? Or even look fit and trim at all times? Or at least be able to run an 8-minute mile? In 2 Corinthians 3:17, Paul says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (NIV) It is freedom from earthly judgment, freedom from our inadequacies, freedom to become who God intended us to be.
Have you ever considered some of the assumptions that come along with proclaiming to be a Christian in today’s world? Does that mean I am a bible-toter, public prayer warrior with a bumper sticker on my mini van that says, “My boss is a Jewish Carpenter”? It might. Or it could mean that I am an active church member, who loves to read Bible stories to my kids and pray with them before bedtime. Some weeks I not only consider myself a Christian, but would really act like one too. By waking early to read out of the Word, worshipping God in my daily tasks and loving the people in my community with a God-given love. Then we all have those other kinds of weeks that we would rather forget. Weeks that leave us feeling rather ashamed of our inadequacies and hurts that we have to lay at Jesus’ feet. But still, He claims us as His very own. “God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life- not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1:9, NIV) Just like we can’t compare our runner’s profile with that of another, neither can we compare our Christian lifestyle with that of another Christ follower. God is not concerned with whether we wear Nikes or Asics, or even if we read the NIV or the King James Version. He’ll speak to each of us in our own individual way. What brings us joy and life brings joy to Him as well.
So this goes out to all of you fair-weather, 10-minute mile joggers out there. You’re a runner, plain and simple. And also to you sporadic Bible-reading, taking one day at a time Christ followers; you’re a child of God, plain and simple. Spandex or not, we’re all wanting the same thing. We all desire a closer union with our maker. I am going to continue at my pace, you continue at yours. But I bet I’ll see you at the finish line.
Jodi Miller makes her home in Goshen, Indiana. She has a degree in Social Work from Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana. She and her husband of eight years have two children and are expecting a third in September. Their family worships and serves their community at Maple City Chapel.