I ran a second half marathon a few weeks ago. I certainly don’t race because I’m too slow to ever win, or even keep up for a mile with the top finishers. So to use the stale cliché, I compete only against myself. And I usually lose.
But as I’ve taken running more seriously (for my health really), I’ve learned some things from friends who run and a close friend who acts as a coach. The most recent round of training taught me another lesson with spiritual application. I learned the value of restraint. The Proper and most effective way to run a half marathon is to hold back, not to let loose. I find this so very counterintuitive to almost everything I’ve been taught in athletics.
Push, push, push!! Fight, fight fight! Go, go, go!! These chants motivated me throughout my years of high school and college basketball (I tried football once but twas too rough for my taste). In almost all of my athletic endeavors, the gumption of pressing harder and harder promised (and delivered) success.
But when I came to long distance running, the principe of restraint shocked me. To my surprise, pushing hard could never produce the fastest times. In fact, the opposite proved true. According to good coaching, I’m beginning to grasp the value of running with restraint physically, and gaining a helpful picture for spiritual restraint.
The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Here we find a clear emphasis on endurance in the race of the Christian life. And we find a caution about things which can hinder and entangle us in the race. I’m reminded here of the cross-over point about restrain in running and carefulness in life.
In running a road race, getting off the line to an unrestrained pace leads to a crash and burn pace later down the course. Instead, you must restrain or hold back or become entangled in fatigue. In running a spiritual race, holding back and running with discipline and strategy also matters.
That means the wise, spiritual runners will take time to consider how they run, what must be restrained, and what approach will yield the best results.
That’s helpful to me, and maybe you too.