Monday, December 31, 2012

The Long Run of a Life Lived for Christ

It's the last day of the year and people all around the world are expecting the turning of the earth to reveal something new. Something that the 364 days before it didn't have time to show them. Sorry to disappoint, but it's not that simple.

In the beatitudes, Christ tells us that the poor, hungry, weeping, hated, excluded, reviled, and spurned will one day inherit a kingdom, be satisfied, laugh, and receive a great reward in heaven. All that is the long term. As a mortal on this earth, lack of means, food, love and acceptance are all very hard things to bear. In the near term, those things hurt. Just like running. 

The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win. -

Long distance running is a game of pain and patience. In the near term, each step offers no more instant reward than the last and is often no more comfortable than the last. No one step truly makes a difference in the near term.What matters in the long term is all of the steps taken over time - the long, drawn out haul down the road, track or trail.What matters is having the patience to push through any near term pain because of the promised benefit after a long period of toil. Just like faith.

Long is the way, and hard, that out of hell leads up to light. - John Milton

For Christians and runners especially, the best things in life don't come around in a snap. Running and grace both require patience. 

So in this new year, try to think about changing yourself over the long haul. Try taking some of the painful steps that will pay off in the long run. And, just because I love the sport, try lacing up and hitting the road.

Tailwinds in 2013!

Monday, December 10, 2012

God as a coach - A failed experiment?

Back in August, I wrote a post about Ryan Hall's performance in the 2012 Olympic marathon and what it meant in light of his special training method. At the time, Ryan was practicing faith based coaching; where a runner relies on his or her God to direct their physical training.

As you might have seen, Ryan recently announced that he will begin training under a new, mortal, flesh and blood coach. Ryan's new coach, Renato Canova, seems quite impressive, and I am certainly a fan of his rumored emphasis on hill work.

Although this isn't the first time Ryan has trained under a human coach, I'm excited to see what Canova brings out in him. I can't help but wonder, however, how Ryan will adjust to this change in his professional running life. Here's some of what he had to say about the change:

While this is certainly a new chapter in my career I don't feel like it's a huge departure from how I have operated in the past- MSN Innovation For Endurance - 

Not a huge departure? Ryan used to be solely coached by God and now has a human coach? How is that not a big departure. Doesn't this mean he has given up on God to direct his running? Doesn't this mean that God failed Ryan as a coach? No, I don't think that's what this means at all.

I believe Proverbs 3:6 can be of good use here. The passage says "in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight." If we are to truly enjoy life to the fullest as only God can provide, we must allow Him control over all aspects of our lives. I believe that is what Ryan Hall was doing when he placed his professional life fully in God's control. How did that work out? In terms of Olympic victories, not so great. But, what about spiritual victories? How can anyone but Ryan himself judge how many spiritual victories were won during this period of his life?

Maybe that was the whole point of his faith-based coaching experience? Maybe God wanted to train Ryan's faith instead of his running. Maybe now that Ryan's faith has been strengthened to the level God desired, God has put a fantastic running coach in Ryan's path so that his running can reach the highest of levels.

This is what I like to call "the head fake" - where someone asks you to do one thing in order to teach you something else. By submitting his running to God, Ryan probably learned volumes about faith and God's provision. One would have assumed that by submitting his running to God, He would have blessed Ryan's running. That just isn't God's style. He isn't that predictable.

So, before we all start cynically quipping "Ha, that God-coached thing sure didn't work very well did it?", we should ask ourselves, did we really expect God to train Ryan Hall in running when He had the perfect chance to train him in matters of Godliness?"