In an old and distant life I used to run half-marathons (pre-Waco Era).
As you mature as an athlete, there is something that happens as you’re still figuring out your pace, finding a good cadence (a rhythm that feels light, invigorating and effortless), and learning how to do all of that while rationing the fuel or energy you have at your disposal. Often you assume you’ve done all of that perfectly, stop looking at mile markers, and based on how your body is feeling and whatever reserves you feel like have left, assume something ridiculous like “oh yeah… 2kms to go, I’ve got this”. Then you turn the corner, see a mile marker or those ridiculously energetic people on the sidelines who happily inform you that you actually still have 8kms left to go.
The first 6-8 weeks of this thing were wild. Honestly, I was feeling a little (very) paralysed by anxiety but we forged ahead in faith, hope and love anyway and we figured it out. By the grace of God I can step back, and look at the past few months and say that my family and I have found a cadence (or a rhythm) that feels good, and a pace that is both realistic and healthy for all of us.
But this past week or so has felt like a temptation to despair.
I feel like I showed up for a half-marathon but somehow ended up with the crazy, full-marathon crowd and the only way out is to keep going.
Except what’s left in me doesn’t feel like it’s enough to get me and the 3 little people at my ankles to the finish line in one piece.
At this stage in 2020, this looks a lot like:
Feeling like you are running on fumes.
Feeling extremely negative, irritable, depressed, argumentative, impatient, explosive and anxious.
Battling with physical and emotional fatigue.
Having difficulty concentrating, remembering or thinking.
Feeling tempted towards sinful and risky behavior.
Feeling drawn to self-destructive and numbing coping behavior.
Persistent pain and tension.
Poor and inconsistent sleep.
Feelings of loneliness, isolation and dissatisfaction with life.
In most races, right about when people’s minds and bodies start to doubt their ability to push through to the end, organizers provide a table with provisions like energy bars and other body or mind fuel so that you can take a second, recalibrate your expectations, your pace and your cadence so that you can push through to the end.
If you need that table. Consider this your invitation to reset or a pivot in our expectations and stewardship of yourself, your family, your community and how the rest of the year is going to go.
Hebrews 11:32 -40 and Hebrews 12:1-17 is an incredibly helpful and invigorating lesson for times like these.
Some things you may want to consider as you pivot, gulp down some extra nourishment and move forward, putting one step in front of the other are:
Keep The Finish Line In MInd.
Or… make sure you’re focused on the right one.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that the only way to run with endurance the race that God has set before us is to keep our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:1&2). The finish line is CHRIST, that exhilarating finish in and with God. For a lot of us, if we’re honest - we need this to be over so that we can have our freedom, prosperity, peace and convenience returned to us. Maybe it’s time to refocus our hearts on the only finish line worth running towards.
Embrace discipline, responsibility, training, maturity and take Initiative in your self-care.
Lets get practical.
There is always really intense and intentional nourishment available at the reset table.
If Hebrews 12:1-2 was an invitation to examine our heart’s finish lines. Hebrews 12:3-14 is an invitation to examine our commitment to submission to discipline, training, maturity and the change we need to undergo to finish well.
When it comes to faithful self-stewardship, as wonderful as a night of Netflix and a gallon of Bluebell may sound right about now, it will not fuel you sufficiently for the rest of your marathon. Your body’s stress response - which is a beautiful gift designed by God to protect and care for you has been working extremely hard with little to no breaks since February. Maybe part of why we’re all falling to pieces physically and emotionally because we haven’t been nourishing ourselves like we actually want to finish this marathon.
Consider exercising faithful discipline in your self-stewardship by:
Seeking to understand what exactly is happening in your body as it endures chronic stress and how you can best support it.
Taking stock of and evaluating your current self-stewardship disciplines. If they’re not serving you well anymore, they need to change.
Creating and implementing an intentional self-stewardship strategy that is flexible yet consistent, holistic (rather than one-dimensional), characterized by self-discipline (rather than self-indulgence) and by nourishment, healing and love (rather than withholding or self-flagellation).
Run Towards Connection, Not Away From It.
But also, social-distancing.
Friends, authentic human connection is probably one of the single most effective stress management strategies we have. Yes, there are restrictions around how this can happen right now, but know that you need to prioritize using every single avenue available to you to remain connected to others. Especially those in your community of faith.
The writer of Hebrews, in his final exhortation to a community feeling stuck in the marathon of their lives, instructs the church to keep an eye out for and stay intimately connected to one another (Hebrews 12:14-17).
We remind one another of why all of this matters, why we can never give up.
We hold one another in our pain and despair.
We exhort one another towards faithful self-stewardship and discipline when it’s easier to fall into destructive and sinful selfishness, self-comfort and self-indulgence.
We confess to and forgive one another when our anguish tempts us into sin.
We are for one another a safe place when we the world feels like it’s falling to pieces.
As I think about that refreshment table, I am reminded of another table that is freely available to all of us. Christ sits at its head, and invites all who are weary and unable. He seats us beside and among others, and we are never truly alone. We eat, are nourished and satisfied and then he offers us his blood and his body. He offers Himself for the journey ahead.
My prayer for my family in Christ, as we approach the table is that we would accept the invitation extended to us:
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT).