Perseverance in love.

July 24, 2009

I was never a long distance runner.  I didn’t see how anyone could enjoy taxing their body to that degree for that long.track_splash

So, when a few friends from school asked me a month ago to run the San Jose Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon with them, I just laughed and said, “I’m not a runner.”  Even the thought of running 13-point-something miles made me tired.

But in the end, they prevailed.

I’ve been training for a couple weeks now, and to my surprise, the greatest difficulty in training hasn’t been the physical conditioning.  It’s been been conditioning my mind to persevere — up steep hills, through shadeless stretches of the trail, and especially in spite of the strong, persisting desire to quit.

God isn’t One to pass up teaching moments, even in the most mundane things, and learning a little about perseverance in running has helped me understand a little more about perseverance in love:

  • Something more than good intentions must be had for the long run.  In running, training.  In loving, discipline–primarily, the discipline of abiding in Him.
  • Few things are more key than intentional self-forgetfulness in perseverance.  Nothing is more key than focusing your mind elsewhere during the long run; focusing on this ache or that will only condition your mind to quit.  Nothing is more key than focusing on Christ’s glory and the good of your neighbor during the long-run; focusing on this ache or that hurt will only make the pain more unbearable and condition you to quit.
  • Keeping your head up and looking forward, even when you’re exhausted, is much better than letting it sway every which way as you run.  It takes effort to maintain good posture, but it keeps the mind clear and helps you run longer and better in the end.  Likewise, it seems like it would be less tiring to give in to wallowing in and expressing every emotion that comes with the challenges of loving family, friends, or strangers; but looking upward and forward keeps the mind fixed and helps you persevere.
  • It’s better to take frequent, quick sips of water throughout the run than occasional, long drinks.  In fact, it’s better to be well watered-up before the run than to drink only in response to thirst.  One is a proactive approach; the other is reactive.  By the time it’s reactive, it’s almost too late.  Marlean Felix spoke at Lighthouse’s annual women’s conference when I was in college, and she spoke about the importance of having a “root system” in place.  It is better to be rooted in His truth well before any storms come.  And when you open your heart to love sinners (sinners just like yourself), storms will indeed come.
  • Running with someone helps you run farther and faster than running alone does (at least, this is true for me).  Accountability and encouragement from a friend as you run is sweet action.  Alone, it is insufficient, but coupled with good training, it gets you far.  Accountability and encouragement from a friend as you seek to love is even sweeter.  Alone, it is insufficient, but coupled with good theology (and the reality of the theology — Theos, the God who is Love), it won’t just get you far … it’ll take you to the end.

Peter, inspired by God, knew the need for perseverance in love.  He wrote to the dispersion in I Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”  Keep loving, he tells them.  This exhortation came after he reminded them of the cross of Christ and the reward and hope of God.

Perhaps from a physical standpoint, not everyone can run a half marathon.  Perhaps one injury, even during training, can permanently disqualify a person.  But by the grace of God, no injury or discouragement or pain-from-evil-returned-for-good or whatever can ever permanently incapacitate a person from loving as He does.  He supplies that strength and gladly gives to those who ask Him.

Let’s persevere in love — not by our might but by His.  Christ the path and Christ the prize.


9 Responses to “Perseverance in love.”

  1. stareway Says:

    Wow. Very nicely said. Running long distance does teach us a lot of things about perseverance. But nice job bringing love into the picture too.

  2. letitia Says:

    Thanks for the kind words, Stareway.

    By His grace, I pray that might be “nicely lived,” too.


  3. Kau Says:

    i love running for some of the very reasons you mentioned…too bad I don’t do it anymore, haha.

  4. Tina Says:

    Just discovered your blog and I want to say that God is speaking to my heart through what He is showing you. So, thank you!

  5. letitia Says:

    Kau, you should run the marathon with us!

    Tina, that is so encouraging. God is good.

  6. dennarr Says:

    Thanks for the great observations! I love how God uses things in our lives to remind us of Him and how we are to live lives of worship. I think sometimes we tend to overlook the lessons that are right in front of us! Keep it real!

  7. letitia Says:

    Dennis, that so true. He teaches us immense truths with mundane things … such a good Teacher :]

  8. slam Says:

    a little less than 2 months out; it’s going to be glorious~ thankfully your training was started well in advance that will allow you to “go for grace”

    as opposed to tongue hanging out and crawling to the finish line…

  9. letitia Says:

    slamjoe, it was good seeing you at the wedding! i hope it’ll be “glorious” like you say :] i’m hoping my training will bring me to run 13 miles the week before the big day!

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