Earlier this week I got a notification from my Nike+ Running App. The App urged me to pledge to run as many miles as I could this week. For every mile I ran, Bank Of America would donate 40 cents to (RED), a charity which looks to end the AIDS epidemic in Africa.
40 cents a mile doesn’t sound like all that much. But I’m a supporter of the (RED) organization and I know how far even that small amount can go. So I’ve pledged to run this week and add my miles to the tally. I encourage you to download the app and do the same.
It wasn’t a hard decision for me to make. I probably would have gone running a couple of times this week anyway.
But what I’m starting to realize is having a reason to run that’s bigger than myself is the best kind of motivation for me.
I wouldn’t classify myself as a runner. I like to run 2-3 times a week. (Occasionally more. Often less.)
I’m not very fast. I’m not very graceful. I don’t run long distances on a regular basis.
Running has just been something I’ve enjoyed as a hobby for the past 7 or 8 years. It’s something I do for my health. It’s something I do to clear my head. It’s something I do to listen to music or podcasts.
I enjoy running for the personal challenge. I’ve never been much of an athlete. Running allows me to compete against my personal goals rather than embarrass myself against a larger team or in front of fitter folks at the gym.
Running for myself is fine. I get a lot out of my time on the trails. Occasionally though I’ve run for reasons other than my own.
In 2011 I ran my first half marathon. Getting 13.1 miles under my belt was something I had been wanting to accomplish for years.
Time after time though I could not gain enough momentum or courage to do lace up my shoes on my own.
So I decided to take a couple of my youth group students along for the journey.
We researched half marathons in the area and committed to one. In addition, I decided to turn the run into a fundraiser for the Jamaica Mission Trip our youth group was planning that year.
Suddenly my training had a purpose behind it. Every mile I ran now had meaning for the students I was serving.
Peeling myself off the couch to run a few miles around the neighborhood didn’t become physically easier. But I had a deeper motivation to push me through the pain.
I found the same motivation when I ran a 5K the next year to raise money for Young Life, a ministry I’ve worked with for nearly a decade.
And I’m finding the same motivation the past few years when I run with my fiancé. Earlier this year I got to help push her to her first 5K.
When we run together my workout is no longer a solo endeavor. Instead we run for each other. She is not as fast as I am, but I think she runs a lot harder than I do. I’m motivated to not give up and start walking when she’s around.
In fact I ran my fastest ever 5K when we ran together.
It’s incredible to me what can happen when I have a reason beyond myself when I run.
I’m also learning the reason why I run is the same reason why I write.
Writing is a great outlet for my thoughts. It’s relaxing while at the same time challenging. It’s an adventure every time I get behind the keyboard.
Ultimately though I write at my best when I’m writing for someone else.
The moments when my writing comes alive are the moments when I recognize this blog has the potential to be bigger than me. When I remember that I want my words to not just be a personal journal but a gospel reflection, a ministry to those who read them.
It’s not always easy. It’s not always rewarding. It’s often a lonely and frustrating process.
But I keep on running the race God has put before me because I believe my writing can mean something for someone other than myself. I believe God has called me to write to touch peoples lives.
When I view my writing through a selfish lens, I often just want to give up. I’m not making money from the endeavor. My blog seems like it’s just spinning its wheels. I don’t see myself as any closer to my long term goals than I was 2 years ago.
When I remember the true reason why I write – to encourage every reader to see the presence of God in their everyday lives- then I am able to push through when I’m tired. I’m able to run a few more steps when it hurts. I’m able to keep going when I want to give up.
I refuse to stop running toward my writing goals because my goals are not about me.
I believe there is something built into each of us yearning to be part of something greater than ourselves. I believe God designed us to run better when we give ourselves to causes greater than ourselves.
When you find the place where your passion meets a purpose for serving others, you’ve found your sweet spot.
You won’t always be able to live in that sweet spot. You may have to continue to make small steps toward it each day for years.
But figure out what truly makes you run, what makes you forget about yourself in the service of others. Start pursuing it more and more day by day. Keep taking those gradual steps toward the goal until you reach the finish line.
What does that look like for you? What really makes you run – gives you something bigger than yourself to live for even when you don’t always see the rewards? How do you keep running the race?
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