Running with Endurance (How Jogging Helped Me Love)

Two days after Christmas, 2009. I fed my belly with too much lumpia, atole, chocolate cake…

I overindulged. Something had to change. That’s when I started running every day.

We live at the top of the hill, so those first days I ran half a block (downhill) and walked half a block (uphill), three times. Three times around the block wasn’t much. Still, each day built on the one before. Eventually I started running all the way to Oak Valley Ranch Park (a whopping quarter-mile—downhill), around the park some, and then back home (walking).

The momentous day I tried running uphill, I think I was “running” as fast as I walk. But I did it and did it the next day, too.

I’ve been running daily for more than two years now, working up from almost-negligible, to three miles a day. I still go slowly, but I go.

Earlier this year, someone close to me had hurt me. I was angry like a mad dog. That Wednesday and Thursday were the most raging days I could remember. I fed my heart with too much bitterness, resentment, near-hatred (or, if I dare to admit, just plain straight-out hatred)…

I overindulged in anger. Something had to change.

When I jog, it’s always a pray-run. As I jogged that angry Wednesday I asked God my standard question that works for any circumstance. It is a standing prayer: “Father, how do You want me to respond?” When I pray like this, I often get no neon sign, no immediate answer.

But this time it was immediate, in big, flashing neon:
Love her.

Impossible, I thought, feeling my upper lip wrinkle. IM-POSS-I-BLE.

Yet I chose to remember God’s works in my past, and the remembering was crucial. Though I felt the opposite inside, I prayed out loud in faith: God, I remember years ago when I thought it was impossible to forgive Daly. But you did the impossible and helped me forgive in that relationship. I believe you can do it again, in this relationship. (I spoke these words with my vocal cords, but inside I thought, yeah, right.)

I turned left, up Centennial Blvd (the steepest part of my running route). God brought to mind the run with endurance verses. I felt my leg muscles pushing off the pavement, steadily, and I realized I no longer consider that steep part difficult. There was a time, though, when I refused even to attempt that route, turning right instead of left because there was no way I could run up that hill.

But one day I tried it, and it was hard. After doing it every time it was not only possible but, beyond that, no longer difficult.

This brought new meaning to the phrase “run with endurance.” If I would try loving her just once, then, as I build up my endurance, repeating loving acts, then rather than seeming impossible, it would actually no longer be difficult. It would eventually become easy (the yoke of Jesus is like that).

In order to “run with endurance,” I first had to … start running.

Run a little now, and a little more tomorrow, and the endurance will keep building. The biblical run with endurance doesn’t happen at the first attempt; it happens over time, when I run over and over. It doesn’t mean I can wake up in the morning and, if I set my jaw firmly enough with a bullet between my teeth, I can finish any race, whether marathon or hundred-meter dash. Endurance is built up, not instant.

The transformative process is always done little by little, small obediences over and over.
Jean Fleming

I turned left to do the steep uphill in this relationship. My first act of obedience was to call her on the phone. A little later, I called her again simply to ask, “How are you?” I kept running up the hill, showing her acts of love, because my Father told me to love her.

It occurs to me that, now, I don’t consider this a hard path. Not anymore.

Father, thank you for teaching me how to run with endurance. Get me started in the areas I still haven’t tried the hill. Keep me going in the areas I have.

…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…
(Hebrews 12:1-2)

(Linking with Ann Voskamp, who hosts a community of those who share about Love. Click on the Holy Experience badge below to read more posts on Love!)


7 thoughts on “Running with Endurance (How Jogging Helped Me Love)

  1. Yes Monica. You spelled it out well for me. I mean, I’m exercise-phobic, so I had to imagine. But I live on a hill now, so there’s no getting around it (except I drive everywhere!) and just a week ago Monday I bought walking shoes, so I’ve been around the hilly block a couple times last week, panting my way up. But today, still straining, I wasn’t panting! Wonders never cease. How to love the unlovely? In deeds and truth (1 John, my favorite book). Thank you for the encouragement. I’ll keep walking until I can run. Both ways, although I run better in relationships I had thought!

  2. You are so beautiful. I think I could use this lesson in love. Hills are not hard to come by around here either. And…

    seriously? Hiraeth? Oh, I love the way it looks! I wonder how to say it. You amaze me. Do I need to read this book, Dreams and Wishes? Sounds like I do…

    Love you.

  3. I used to run regularly and I want to again…thank you for the inspiration to just get started! And, yes…choosing to love in obedience to God is the open door for His transformation in our hearts, which makes it easier to love freely…and be free. :-)

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