I am not a runner. I’ve tried to be. I’ve forced myself to go for runs, thinking that with the right environment or music, I could possibly enjoy myself. I did this for months before realizing that running just is not for me. No matter how hard I pushed myself, I just hated it every. single. time.
I think what I hated most about running (besides the actual running part) is that it felt like I was never getting anywhere. I would run for what felt like forever and would realize that I had only gone half a mile. Or I would run with the intention of getting to the bus stop or park down the street and halfway into the run, I felt just as far away from my destination as I had when I started.
I don’t know about you, but I feel that way in my relationship with Jesus, sometimes most of the time, too. I drag myself off of the couch and decide that this time, I’m really going to do it – I’m going to run hard and fast after Jesus and I’m not going to let anything stop me. The first few steps of the run seem great. And then halfway through, I am exhausted, discouraged, and feel like I haven’t gotten anywhere. Becoming the person that Jesus wants me to be and having the relationship with Him that we both desire feel just as out of reach as they did when I first started.
When the discouragement sets in, so does the shame. The voice in my head reminds me of all the ways I have failed at following Jesus before, all the times I’ve started with good intentions only to stop and give up before I’ve made any progress. I berate myself for failing – again – and tell myself that it would be better to not even bother than to try and fail over and over and over. I think to myself, How could you not be able to do this? You should be where you want to be by now; it shouldn’t be taking this long.
So when I read passages like Hebrews 2:1 – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” – I wonder how it’s possible. How can I possibly run with endurance when it seems like I can barely run at all; when I look around and realize that on the road toward Jesus, I’m still in the exact same place I was a week ago? I haven’t gotten any better at running, and I still have so far to go.
In 2 Corinthians 4, which has quickly become one of my favorite Bible chapters, Paul writes, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9). And I love this sentence because it reminds me to find the balance between where I am and where I’m not – whether that’s not anymore or not yet. It’s true that I often find myself in places where I do not want to be – like stuck in the same place on my journey of following Jesus. But when I remember where I used to be, I realize that I have come a long way, even though I still have a long way to go.
I’m not a finished product. I’m not finished running this race – not yet. But the amazing thing is that I don’t have to be. Jesus finished it all for me. He ran the race perfectly (Hebrews 1:2), and now the race that I’m running is less about how quickly I get to the finish line and more about the relationship that Jesus and I can have while I stumble, backslide, sprint, and take breathers on this run.
Hannah Hladek is a proud native of the beautiful state of Colorado, where she lives with her husband, Jeff. Hannah is deeply passionate about ministering to young women, combining her gifts of teaching with her degree in Communications and Masters of Divinity. When she’s not dreaming about starting a ministry, Hannah can be found with her nose in a book, binge-watching The Great British Baking Show, or laughing with a friend over a latte. Find more of her at @hannah_hlad3 and @allou_story