Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Running for gold or running for God?

I've never been particularly competitive, except against myself, and I didn't stand a chance of getting into the school football team in 1960s Brazil. My sports have always been solitary, first cycling, and now - because the Fens are too flat for interesting cycling - running.

I began running when I was 60, to stretch myself, knowing that I was not a natural runner. Or so I thought. Over the last five years, with 5 half marathons under my belt, I have discovered three things: that I am built to run, that running makes me feel really alive, and that it is the most wonderful way of going on retreat.

The thing is, God's always there anyway. We don't go on retreat to find a place where God is more present than somewhere else. That would be silly. We go to a place where we can be more attentive, more receptive, more in touch with ourselves and the lives that we lead. And so the running works well for me.

  • It gives me the silence I crave in a word-weary world, and I am resolved never to run with headphones in my ears.
  • It enables me to listen more carefully to the world around, whether it's the buzz of traffic or the yaffling of green woodpeckers [lots of them in Coton], or even the complete silence that is still available in the English countryside if you look hard enough [read Robert McFarlane to find out where].
  • It allows the clutter in my head to unravel, and so I go through the strands one by one, pray for them, log them for further attention and move on. Now I carry a little notebook because I can't trust my memory.
  • I've also discovered that I can give [offer?] my running to God as a living sacrifice, not to earn any favours, but because when I run, that's who I am, and I do it for God, mostly with rejoicing. 
  • And finally and most importantly, I make myself available for God to speak to me if he wants to. Often he doesn't, and I just enjoy his good pleasure and company. But when he does, I stand a better chance of being all ears.
If you haven't stopped reading yet on the grounds that you can't run, you might like to think of ways in which my running might serve as a metaphor for your some part of your life that is just waiting to burst into prayer and praise. To this end, a mundane or everyday necessity or a freely-chosen activity will serve equally well. 

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