In the past couple of weeks I've decided to take up running as a bit of a pastime. My current tactics are to run for approximately 30 minutes - one day on, one day off.
It's not something I've really done before and it already feels like it is taking some time to make any progress whatsoever. It is something that isn't helped by my stubborn attitude and disregard for regimens that are there to help build me up slow and steady. In my first week I was supposed to be walking for 90 seconds and running for 60... but I was literally deciding to run before I could walk and doing it the other way round... something I wasn't supposed to be doing until this second week.
I'm also being aided and hindered in equal spades by my iPhone and its random music selection. I find myself running/jogging to the pace dictated by the music rather than setting something that is comfortable for the length of time I'm engaging in the activity. It gets worse if a track pops up that spurs me on.... because I abandon any timing discipline and then just throw myself into pushing through the entire song at pace.
All this aside, I have noticed some benefit. I'm able to push myself for slightly longer for those songs for a start; I'm also shaving off the time it takes me to get round the course I've plotted out for myself. This is forcing me to look at ways to expand the distance I run because I'm in danger of coming in from my runs too quickly... I need to keep to that 30 minute window.
So what on Earth has spurred me into this formerly uncharacteristic course of action? Is it just a desire to lose a bit of weight and get fit... or is there more to it than that?
I have several reasons and yes, fitness and wellbeing are among them. However at the heart of my actions lies a far more fundamentally important reason. Ever since I have returned from Italy, I have felt a spiritual energy that has kept me buoyant and forward thinking. I don't want to lose or forget that... I need to remember. There are beacons in the distance that I need to be aiming for, beacons that at the moment I have no idea how to to reach... but at some point in the not to distant future I'm going to have to punch the core and make a break for them. However, I live in a quiet corner of the galaxy that has a habit of putting dreams and ideas to sleep... of subjecting you to a kind of spiritual oppression and putting you in your place... even if it's not the place you need to be.
More than this, I feel I've returned to a land of pessimism that needs to remember its own hopes and promises. There was a baptism in my church the other week and several people commented that "we'll not see them again". Furthermore, I also caught myself feeling quite glum at the prospect of worshipping in what felt like a godless environment... until I realised the magnitude of what those feelings do to you and fought back hard with a renewed sense of zeal and evangelistic vigour.
If you've ever seen the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Unforgettable", then you'll have seen a parallel of what I'm talking about. In the episode, the first officer Chakotay falls in love with a woman from a species who fade out of a person's living memory when they leave them. At the end of this particular episode, the woman Chakotay has a relationship with leaves... and as she does so, a the ship's computer memory banks and the crew's memories begin to lose the knowledge of who she was. Desperate not to forget the memory of this woman and what the time spent with her meant to him, Chakotay resorts to the most rudimentary of writing implements - pen and paper, in a bid to permanently record the memories before he loses them forever.
That is kind of what I am doing. I don't want to lose the memories of what I have felt, what I have experienced and what I have learned about myself... and until such a time as I find a way to commit to a course of action that honours those sentiments, I am determined to do what I can to hold on to what I have already attained. I also don't want to see what life that remains in my church, choked out of it... I want people to learn once again to look at the Son (sic) and not at the shadows.
And so I run... and I keep on running... pushing myself and reminding myself that every strained breath keeps the other, nobler, higher more distant aims fresh in my mind until an opportunity, a path or a choice appears that I can commit my energy to.
And I'm not just running with my body.
A few of us have been in the habit of praying weekly at church... but different people's commitments are making it hard to stick to the agreed time and day. This I decided was an opportunity and not a difficulty to overcome... and so I now do my best to pop in every work night, even if it's just for a few minutes, to make sure God gets more... not less out of the new set of circumstances.
I run now... to better myself in every way - body, mind and soul, in the hope that I can glorify God by becoming the man he wants to be as and when he chooses and to sustain the momentum that he put in my heart.
Do you hear a call to start running in some way today?
"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."1 Corinthians 9:24-27