After the birth of my fourth child, I needed to find a convenient and simple way to care for myself amid my full (though sleep-deprived) life. Running fit the bill. Lace up the shoes and head out the door.
But running didn’t come naturally to me. It took time for my body to acclimate to this new activity. I developed blisters. My legs were constantly sore. It was a challenge to stay motivated in the middle of a run.
Yet, despite my frustrations, I discovered ways to persevere. Local races provided a goal to motivate me when it was freezing outside or I lacked the desire to push myself another mile. The encouragement of a friend made the seemingly endless miles go by just a little faster. I learned the benefit of proper footwear to help me reach the finish line.
Still, it was only after many, many miles that I actually began to enjoy running. And the blessings of this new discipline have been greater and more varied than I anticipated. I’ve learned the neighborhood where I live really well. I’e made new friends. I’ve discovered what motivates me when I am struggling. I’ve seen improvements to my health, including increased endurance so I can keep up with my kids on long hikes.
I’ve also gained a new appreciation for the beauty and complexity of the times in Scripture the spiritual life is compared to going on a journey or running a race. Moses instructed the Israelites to follow God, “walking in obedience to him and revering him” (deuteronomy 8:6). And the author of Hebrews encouraged believers to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (hebrews 12:1–2).
Understanding the comparison between running a race and our spiritual journey can provide insight into how we are designed spiritually. It’s not a perfect analogy, yet it is a common metaphor in Scripture, and there is great value in exploring this analogy while asking for God’s Spirit to guide us.