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Prayer and Running - Reflection for October 31, 2014

posted Nov 6, 2014, 8:42 AM by Parish Administrator   [ updated Nov 6, 2014, 8:49 AM ]

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit." - George Sheehan


About half way through my training for the Marine Corps 10K, someone asked, "Do you like running?"


The question gave me pause.  After considering it, I answered as honestly as I could.  "No, not really."

And even so, two days after finishing the race, I pulled out my sneakers and went for a run.


I signed up for the Marine Corps 10K this past July, in an attempt to kill a few birds with one big stone.  First, I wanted to mitigate my physician's complaining that I need more cardiovascular conditioning; second, I wanted to support the good work of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Finally, I had to acknowledge a truth that my spiritual directors (past and present) often point out: I have a very embodied spirituality.


Because I have an embodied spirituality, inactivity suffocates my spiritual life.  And so, I have had to find ways to channel my energies into activities that drag me out of my inner dialog, that settle my mind, and open me to "the now."  These activities have included hiking, tai chi, and karate, but in this season of my life, running is the thing.


Running reminds me that all of me is important to God.  Too often I fall into the lie of "neck-up" religion: the assumption that God is only concerned about what's going on in my head.  When I'm running, I am aware of my breathing (or lack thereof), and the sights and sounds and scents around me.  I am reminded of all of the amazing systems that make me who I am and that I am a part of a miracle called Creation.  That little voice that says "you're not enough; you haven't worked hard enough; you have to DO more" is silenced and for a while; I simply "am".


Running also reminds me that there is a difference between discomfort and pain.  Running (especially at my age) requires that I accommodate myself to a certain level of discomfort.  The same is true if one decides to follow Jesus.  Faith requires that we find ways to stretch outside our comfort zones, to live with discomfort until deep truth is revealed to us.  It is easy to spend our lives making ourselves so comfortable that we cannot recognize the difference between pain and discomfort.  The world encourages this.  My doctor once said, "Sore is good.  Pain is bad.  Sore means you've stretched a muscle and it will get stronger for it.  Pain means that you need to stop and figure out what's wrong."  These words ring true for physical and spiritual health.


I don't run because I like running.  I run because in this season of my life, running is my prayer life; running is how I open myself to the Holy, and in the process, remember that I'm a child of God.


After 4 months of training, I finished my first 10K last week.  I am so thankful for the support of the Wardens and Vestry.  And I'm so grateful for all of the words of encouragement and the generosity of the St. Margaret's community.  Your love lets me run and running makes me a better priest.



P.S.  The next race:  The Ugly Sweater Run, Saturday, Dec. 6th (St. Nicholas Day)!