I used to run. I stopped. I suppose I quit. But I most certainly didn't give up.
Running served it's purpose, a life-giving one, in fact. It kept me sane during the first eighteen months of my fourth child's life. It enabled me to drink milkshakes”a poor choice at best. But it's what I knew at the time.Running offset those horrible, calorie-brimming ice-dream delights from Chic-fil-a I crushed once a week. I stopped drinking those too (#healthcoach). But running was good. It became spiritual for me. God spoke to me on my runs.
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.
I Corinthians 9:24 (NIV)
It was always a win when I ran. But running ran its course. And then I stopped. I definitely didn't quit. And I most certainly never gave up.
What's the difference? How do I know?
never quit in a valley.
There were highs and lows in every race I ran. Mile Marker Eight was always a tough one for me. That's a little past the halfway mark in my half marathon races. But Mile Marker Eight was still too far away to see the hope of the finish line. My legs would feel heavy. My mouth would grow dry. I would become discouraged over the many miles I still had to go.
The hoopla from the starting gun was long gone by Mile Marker Eight. And there in the middle, few bystanders cheered for me. They saved their encouragement for the finish. But nothing at Mile Marker Eight.
The middle was tiresome and lonely. Doubt always crept in. But I could never trust my feelings in the valley. Feelings aren't often facts. They're REAL, but they're not facts. And to quit in the middle of a hard time would be a mistake. That's just giving up.
never stop running in fear.
I'll never forget the America's Finest City Half-marathon held in August. The San Diego sun was scorching, and I had not fueled my body well. When Mile Marker Six arrived, my body began to cramp. I grabbed a Dixie cup of water, dreading to swallow for fear of throwing it back up all over my fellow racers. I ran to the nearest bathroom, uncertain of what my body was doing. I broke into a sweat, followed by waves of chills from head to toes. Visions of me being that one girl passed out on the pavement with an emergency medic hovered over her flashed through my mind. Keep going, Jen. You can do it.
I was afraid I wouldn't make it even more afraid of what might be wrong. I crossed the finish line at mile 13.1 and my body had survived. I ran the race to get the prize, which had demanded I press past my fear. To quit when I was afraid would have been a mistake. That's just giving up.
I had a fruitful season of running. We had a good run. She built character in me that far surpassed what I had expected. I learned to train. I better appreciate the value of endurance, and my mind is better for it.
But then one day, I decided to hang my sneakers. It was time for a new practice. I chose to take on a different form of exercise for a different season of me. I moved on. Not to something better, but just to something better for me, for now.
I'm not avoiding the run. I stopped because I moved on. To quit with no plan for my heart health, no exercise for physical strength or path for mental clarity would have been a mistake. That's just giving up. And there's big differences between stopping, quitting and giving up.
I don't know the race you're running right now. Is it time to endure? Is it time to stop?
Don't let fear set your pace. Don't let doubt make your decision. It's OK to stop. Just don't run away. That's giving up. And there's a big difference between stopping, quitting and giving up.
Everybody's running a race. Run yours. It's different than mine. Just do so in such a way as to win the prize. The prize isn't about first or even last. It's following your path in faith. It's persevering, clinging to your promise. And it's obedience to God as you approach the finish line in the season you are in. The prize that awaits you is eternal and intangible, yet vividly present now.