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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Do You Smile When You Run?

Awhile back, I mentioned to someone that I was a runner. Sometimes, confessing this can feel like admitting to some kind of secret obsession or fetish, as non-runners tend to have a hard time understanding why anyone would like to run and choose to do so voluntarily. But I told this near-stranger that I loved to run. This fellow asked an interesting question back, "Do you smile when you run?" In his words, he said that every runner he had ever seen looked sad, angry, tired or a combination of all three.

A few days later, I was out on a normal run and for whatever reason, I was not feeling it that day. My legs were sluggish and my brain wanted to call it quits early. But I thought of this guy's question about smiling when I run, and I realized that, in that moment, I was living out his stereotype of the angry-tired-sad runner look.

So I made a decision. I decided that the next car that drove by I would greet as if it was my brother. My real brother lives in Wisconsin and it is highly unlikely that he would drive 2,000 miles to greet me on a run, so picturing my reaction to seeing him struck me as funny and a bit exorbitant. Due to this, the next car that drove by received a spontaneously wild wave of excitement from me that had to have left the driver wondering what on earth was wrong with that crazy runner.

I did the same thing to the next car. And the next. And the next. After 3 or 4 cars, I actually found that I was enjoying it. I was laughing at myself and laughing at the reactions and thoughts that must be going through the heads of the unsuspecting drivers. Do you know what else happened? I started to feel good about the run. What only moments before had been drudgery suddenly felt like a party on the move. All of this happened because I chose a different persepctive- I intentionally put my mind and my thoughts on something that brought life and energy.

There's a story kind of like this that occurs in the Bible. David, the man who would one day be king over all Israel, is in a bad place. His life is being threatened by King Saul. Assissins have come to his house and only narrowly missed him. Spears thrown from the hand of the king have pinned him to the wall. Plots are underway to end David's life. Because of this, he finds himself on the lam, running from the king and who knows how many others. He has no one with him, nothing for protection but an over-sized sword of Goliath, and he's forced to run into enemy territory. While there, he must pretend that he is crazy so as not to be killed but yet another hostile king.

During this whole story, David pens the words to Psalm 34;
     I will praise the Lord at all times.
       I will constantly speak his praises.
     I will boast only in the Lord;
       Let all who are helpless take heart.
     Come, let us exalt the Lord's greatness;
        Let us exalt His name together! (Vs. 1-3)
The irony of this Psalm is that none of the things David sings about have actually come to pass in his current situation. At the time of writing,, he is in a foreign land, being chased by Saul, and with no hope of a future kingdom on his mind. But these are the words he puts to a scroll. Why? Because he chose a perspective. Rather than the sad-weary-tired soldier look, he put his eyes on the Lord. He chose to focus not on his circumstances, but on the glory of God and the promise of His faithfulness.  And so I believe that these words were not empty wishes which created a false hope, but that these words were powerful reminders of greater truths about God.

So today, may I ask- where is your perspective? Are you looking at current circumstances in such a way that life and energy seem to be draining away step by step? Or are you consciously choosing to focus on the greater things of God and His purposes for you? Making that choice to look up could make all the difference in the world.

At the very least, it could make the run a little lighter. And puzzle a few drivers as well!

     Taste and see that the Lord is good.
        Oh the joys of those who take refuge in Him!  (Psalm 34:8)

May you journey in His joy-

1 comment:

Scott Anderson said...

Great thoughts Nick. I'm not a runner but I appreciate your insight. Great encouragement to me today. It also made me think of the missionary Eric Liddel who said "God made me fast, and when I run I feel His pleasure." There is great joy in doing what God has gifted you at.