Ah, running. It grips your heart in one breath and tears it out the next. Does that seem blunt to you? Well then, you must not be a runner.
It is not a sport for the faint of heart, nor the skeletally-fragile. But one thing I’ve discovered in my years of running is that our sport is a great equalizer. You get out of running what you put in. There’s no hiding behind a strong teammate or fancy equipment. Sure, the latest technology and training work to your advantage, but they can’t turn a pedestrian runner into an Olympic stud. That takes hard work.
You know what else it takes? Confidence. That’s something I’ve lacked for a long time, something that has only recently re-awakened for me. Sadly, I spent many years in fear. I was afraid of failing, afraid of competitors, afraid of my body not fitting a standard, afraid of getting injured…. the list goes on.
The point is: My fears took a lot of my time and energy. They also damaged my chance for success. So when God brought me out of fear, I vowed to keep moving forward and not look back. I started loving races again, enjoying hard workouts, and appreciating my body. But like all battles, this one isn’t a linear route to success.
Case in point: My indoor 5k at Notre Dame a few weeks ago. Oh man, was I excited! My fitness level is the best it’s ever been, my joy for running is unmatched. I was pumped for that race.
And then I took a big gulp of pressure. “Only three meets left,” I thought to myself. “This has to be a good race, Hannah. It just has to be.” In that instant, an exciting opportunity to compete morphed into a 3.1 mile trek through a minefield. I had to be tough and strong and excited and Jesus-focused. I had to get out fast and settle in and sustain my energy and push past the pain. My head was spinning at all the things I had to “do right.” God had given me this opportunity and I really didn’t want to blow it. That would mean I was a disappointment to Him and to myself.
Talk about pressure!
As you can very well guess: I didn’t race well. It was quite painful and pitiful, actually, as were the waterworks afterwards.
Post-race, I was paralyzed at the notion that I had disappointed God by not giving my best. I felt like I’d utterly failed. But you know what? Once I processed through the tears, I realized one very important thing, that I thought I knew so well before: I don’t have to prove my worth.
I don’t have to run fast or win races to show God I love Him, to keep Him on my side. I’m not meant to run in an attempt to earn God’s approval, I already have it. And so do you.
You have His approval through the Cross, His favor through the Son. Whether it’s a 5k or a cancer diagnosis: The Lord God Almighty isn’t in the process of deciding what He thinks about you or how He’s going to direct your future.
So why don’t we be FREE? Why don’t we throw off the expectations and worries and pride. Because at the end of it all, is Jesus. At the end of it all is the realization that our race– literal or figurative– is to be run in worship, and not in fear.