"If you’ve raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in thickets by the Jordan?" (Jeremiah 12:5). Our journey is intended to be more than simply "stumbling" through the days while the world "wears us out.” We are made to experience the thrill of "running with horses” and to navigate life amongst the "thickets." The RWH blog focuses on both the spiritual race of which Jeremiah speaks, and the physical act of running that I absolutely love. In short, it's where "the miles meet the Message" to provide insight, perspective & encouragement that might enable you & I to successfully run either of the races set before us. May our course be purposeful and may we be passionate in our pursuit of the abundant life He desires for us.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Running With Grace

There is a mental image etched in my mind, unveiled every time the word ‘grace’ is used in a running context. It’s a memory so vivid I can still hear the sounds as the visual is played out.

The year, 2004. The locale, Nashville. The situation, my first distance race of any kind with no idea of what to expect, and little idea of what I was doing. Needless to say, I am not the subject of grace in this story.

Sparing you the full details (though they are pretty good and you should ask sometime), this image comes from around mile 6, where hugging the center line cones (I have a habit of doing this - I like to think it’s a bit flatter there) and running north, I notice a stir from the spectators about a 1/4 mile ahead. Next came the sound, something akin to a herd of horses. I’m guessing it’s one of the entertainment groups along the course pounding out the tunes, and it would become louder and louder the closer I came to it.

Leaning left, I peeked up the street and quickly realized it wasn't the closer "I came” to whatever it was, it was the closer “they came” to me. I also quickly figured out that the left hand side of the road was a return section of the course, mile 12 for those running the full marathon on their way back south. And that sound, it was the thud-like rhythm of fifty+ marathoners leading the field, striding inches apart at a 5 minute mile pace. What an amazing sight.

In a flash they were gone. The snapshot would have showed me looking back over my shoulder, eyes wide open, and uttering something like “Whooaaa!” I distinctly recall being struck by the breeze they created, by the ease in which they ran, and by how graceful they made all this appear. They were certainly running with grace and I am energized every time I recall it or have the opportunity to watch others run in this similar fashion.

So what’s the moral of this story. How do you and I run with grace when you and I are not blessed with these gifts relative to running, or maybe even relative to walking and chewing gum.

Actually, I think we have the opportunity to run with far greater grace than the smoothest and fastest of the smooth and fast. And it is in running circles -- the training groups, the starting line, along the course -- where I find that we often can work out that grace and learn to carry it into our daily walk.

See, grace is that act, or those words, of kindness, compassion, courtesy, respect, and forgiveness, that we grant to others (all others). Not because they deserve it or have earned it, but because it is the right thing to do. It is unmerited, yet we give it anyway. It’s when we learn to say “That’s ok” more often then we say, “Hey, watch where you are going!” It’s when we say, “Can I help you to the finish” rather than “Ha, wouldn’t want to be you!” It’s encouraging the beginner, appreciating the experienced, saying “Thank you" to the volunteer, and granting forgiveness to the race director (hint-hint, just in case).

In a culture that is consumed with sarcasm, hurtful criticisms, zero tolerance for honest mistakes, pride, bitterness, anger, and hatred, grace can make a lasting impression - sort of like a herd of marathoners flying past you when you least expect it. Besides, a life of grace is so much more liberating and joyful than a life otherwise. It’s like experiencing an everyday spirit of the starting line!

Finally, grace is a foundational pillar to our Christian faith, and believers really have no choice on this matter. However, whether you are a follower of Christ or not, the concept of running with grace is one I think we can all embrace and employ.

May your runs be filled with grace.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:32

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