If you know me at all, chances are you’d never use “athlete” and “Ava” in the same sentence. And you’d be right. For most of my life, the goal has been simple: Do just enough exercise to burn calories but not enough to sweat. And if I can read while working out (Hello, treadmill!), then that’s even better! So imagine my surprise when God told me to run.
Yes, you read it correctly. Almighty God, the one with huge revelations to declare, told me to run. Does this sound as weird to you as it does to me? It’s the truth, though. A friend—an athletic friend because God has a sense of humor—challenged me to a 5K, a short 3.1 mile distance. “You can do it!” she exclaimed. “It’ll be fun!” And then it happened: Every Bible verse, every sermon, every conversation had some sort of reference to running. And I became strangely curious. Could I, an undisciplined couch potato, actually run one mile? Or two? Or three? Dedication like this would take a miracle of God!
Well, meet the miracle. Two months later, some friends, my sister and I crossed the finish line after running the entire 5K distance. And since I still can’t believe it, let me type this again: We ran the entire distance! Pretty cool, but get this: The real miracle came during those eight weeks of training when God repeatedly spoke to me. No kidding: My thoughts during those early training sessions were whispers from my Heavenly Father, running tips from a divine Coach, capital “C.”
Here’s how it happened: Another runner-friend encouraged me to listen for God’s voice during work-outs. (Secretly, I worried that I wouldn’t hear him over my air sucking and feet pounding.) “Just call out to him,” she promised, “and he’ll put some interesting revelations in your head.” Boy, was she right! Here are some thoughts that turned my running challenges into life lessons, courtesy of God:
- Me: “I can’t do it! It’s too hard!” God: “You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you” (Philippians 4:13).
- Me: “I’m discouraged. Feels like I’m wasting my time.” God: “Hang in there. All hard work brings a profit” (Proverbs 14:23).
- Me: “My legs are aching! They feel so heavy!” God: “I’ll pick you up and hold you close to my heart” (Isaiah 40:11).
- Me: “I look so goofy. People are laughing at me!” God: “I beg to differ. Right now there are clouds of witnesses cheering you on” (Hebrews 12:1).
- Me: “It’s just too far. The finish line is barely visible!” God: “Just keep your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2).
- Me: “This slow, awkward body was not made to run!” God: “You are wrong. It’s through me that you move and breathe” (Acts 17:28).
- Me: “Will I ever be able to go the distance?” God: “Stick with me, and there will be a time when you will not grow weary” (Isaiah 40:31).
- Me: “We did it, Father! A whole mile, and I can still breathe!” God: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:6).
With a 10K looming, let me confess that I don’t always love running, but I don’t hate it, either. Bottom line, I think, is my desire to obey. God tells me to do it, so I keep lacing up my tennis shoes. Am I still slow, awkward, and inconsistent? You bet. Am I okay with that? Yep—keeps me desperate for his strength and encouragement (precisely the point,
wouldn’t you say?). And every time, as the ipod blasts those praise songs, the running lessons continue.