I’m one of those crazy types that actually enjoys running. Once upon a time I even looked like a runner.
Over the years, running has filled several important roles for me: it’s been a way of escape, a way to burn off energy, to get or stay in shape, to cope, to get alone and talk to God, to enjoy sunshine and wildlife, to improve my running time, to compete, to show off, to win.
Admittedly, some of those are more virtuous motivations than others.
But this past Saturday I had an opportunity to run for a very different reason.
My local women’s running clinic was invited to participate in the sixth annual Arkansas Run for the Fallen, an apolitical 146-mile weekend-long event honoring service men and women who died in the line of duty since September 11, 2001. Our part was to join the team of running soldiers for one mile through the middle of town.
In the weeks leading up to the event, I thought about it quite a bit. I read the stories of the two Navy SEALs who would be remembered at the Hero Markers at the beginning and end of our course. I thought about my own grandparents and aunt and uncle who served in the Army Air Force and in the Navy.
And I felt quite small and pampered by comparison. Not exactly worthy to be running with people who have taken on so much personal risk for something bigger than themselves–or for people who have quite literally laid down their lives for others.
When Saturday came and our red-shirted local ladies assembled, the anticipation we all felt was a strange mix of excitement and sobriety. Soon the running servicemen arrived, paused to remember one fallen comrade, planted a flag in his name, and then we were off.
The usual “racer’s mindset” tried to assume its place in my thoughts, but there wasn’t any room for it. No room for looking ahead to see who you’re going to try to pass next–that wasn’t the goal. No room for pulling away from the crowd–the purpose this time was to get lost in the crowd, in the small sea of red. No room for going at your own pace–we had to keep pace with those who were leading us on. No room for thinking about how to position yourself for the best finish so you could point to your rank or time in the end–this run was intended to point to someone else.
It’s easy to get comfortable in our lives here in the West and forget that the blessings we enjoy have been paid for by others. So too as Christians, we can lose sight of the fact that our greatest, eternal blessings have been paid for by the Lord Jesus Himself. Sometimes our normal routines need to be shaken up a bit to give us new perspective.
That’s exactly what happened for me on Saturday. This whole experience has refreshed my view of the race set before us as Christians.
We “run with endurance” remembering those who have gone on before us and with our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-4).
We encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11) and cheer each other on rather than treating the gospel of God’s grace as a program for self-advancement and our fellow runners as competitors.
We “keep in step with [His] Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-26)–He sets the pace for us to follow, not the other way around.
Our run on Saturday morning lasted less than ten minutes, but the impact of running to honor someone else has been felt all week. And while my legs have been resting, the words of John the baptist have continued to run through my head: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
Let Him be seen as I run this race called life. Not me.
In a world that preaches so often that we are the most useful or influential when we place ourselves on a pedestal to be seen by others, we need to be reminded that it’s ok, right even, to live outside of the spotlight, to blend in with the crowd of those who live–who run–not for themselves, but for the glory and honor of Another.
Soli Deo gloria.