Tag Archives: runner

Spiritual Sprints: Unhooking the Hindrances

Spiritual SpringsWhen running a race, any expert runner will give you this advice: “Don’t wear new running clothes or shoes on the day of a race.” Why? It will prove a hindrance when the non-broken-in shoe begins rubbing blisters on the heels. Or when those cute new running shorts prove to be a distraction as they “ride high” in places they aren’t supposed to go. Ultimately, stick with the broken-in gear that doesn’t distract the runner from the finish line.

My running pace can be hampered by a myriad of obstacles. A frayed string constantly tickling my leg. A loose waistband sliding further down with each step. A headphone cord rhythmically and annoyingly tapping on my arm. Each one of these distractions impedes my mental toughness and diverts my focus. Therefore, I make a point to rid myself of these issues before any run.

Even Paul recognized the struggle runners face when they encounter distractions. He also knew the Christian life would be much the same. Philippians 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us . . . .”

While most of us recognize the sins part of that verse, we rarely stop and consider the hindrances part. Paul took time to separate the two ideas because they must be examined separately. Sins tend to be a little more obvious, especially with the help of the Holy Spirit. However, hindrances hide.

Wonder where they hide? Let’s look at this modern day — and possibly personal — example. Every afternoon, a woman peruses social media outlets. She encounters various pictures, status updates, and video links. In fact, one picture depicted a family enjoying a glorious trip to the beach. A status update shares that a few old friends got together for a girls night out. Then she watches a video link explaining the Top 10 Must-Have Summer Styles. When she finally signs out, she’s sad and maybe a little angry, but she doesn’t understand why.

Suddenly, it hits her. All those status posts, pictures, and videos have pointed out exactly what she doesn’t have. Due to a recent move, friends whom she could share a girls’ night out don’t exist. With the recent job change, a beach vacation is not in her near future. And one look in her closet quickly reminds her, she does not have any summer “must haves.” However, she does have many other valuables: the possibility of new friendships, a happy family, a fulfilling new job. Yet, she finds herself discontent, rejected, lonely, and unhappy.

All these emotions stirred up from one stroll through the Social Media Park of Perceived Perfections. This, my friends, is a hindrance. Not the social media itself, but the feelings we let it awaken. Now instead of be content and focused on the day’s tasks, we are distracted by unhappiness that bleeds over into our home. We aren’t “sinning” necessarily, but our walk with Christ is hindered because we have stopped focusing on Him and are now focusing on ourselves.

While the “hypothectical” social media example is true, many other life elements can hinder our relationship with God. Consider these:

  1. Lack of discipline – This comes in many forms. It could be in our jobs, our education, our health, our pursuit of God’s call. The list is long.
  2. Worldly-focus – not in the sinful way, but by being more concerned with the needs of this life (money, social status, good job, comfortable home) than the needs of others in this life.
  3. Good “Causes” – this seems to be the cry of today’s generation: justice for the injustice. Yet I worry that the passion for the cause outweighs the passion for Christ.
  4. Hobbies – while these are useful and needful for a balanced life, I’ve often seen lives where hobbies became time-suckers. Take me, for example, my hobby is reading. I could spend entire days laser-focused on a good book and let the world turn without me. If I don’t take guard, my hobby hampers my relationship with Christ and the job He’s asked me to do.

This list is relatively short, but I’m sure you could add a few extra numbers of your own hindrances. While few of these hindrances are sin, they are things that can quickly distract us from our walk with Christ. And a distracted Christian is all Satan needs to keep God from being known.

So today, as you lace up your running shoes, check for those hindrances in your own life. And just as Paul says, “throw them off” and “run with perseverance.”

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A Changing Faith

trail path

One trail that deepens my walk with Christ through nature and running

I was in high school by the time I realized that daily devotional times were beneficial (even mandatory) for growing my relationship in Christ. I have no idea why it took so long. I attended my youth group meetings religiously and even went to a Christian high school. In fact, it was there that I learned how to conduct a daily “quiet time.”

Those quiet times became a lifeline for me in college. In fact, my relationship with Christ grew enormously during those years, which can be labeled as Dickens said: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Actually, I’m not sure they were the worst, but those days where you realize that you are now the responsible adult weren’t quite as much fun as my  childhood brain had hoped it would be.

My relationship with God changed drastically after having children. In fact, the words “quiet” and “time” did not co-exist during those early years. I felt like my relationship with God hit a survival mode. I prayed in quick snatches, mostly requesting that my sanity stay in tact. I read one scripture — or two if I was lucky — and tried to meditate on it in-between dirty diapers, feedings, naps, laundry, etc. I felt so guilty all the time and was sure that God was mad at me for not devoting some quality time to Him.

And then one day it hit me as I washed the mound of dirty dishes in the sink. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to spend time with God; it was that my faith had changed. In those early days of motherhood, I needed God in a new way. My relationship with him became a moment-by-moment relationship. Think of it this way: BK (before kids) God and I regularly met at Starbucks for coffee and a chat. AK my time with God became irregular phone calls or quick texts that lasted all day. Neither was better than the other — they were just different.

Since those young motherhood days, my faith has morphed many times, and each time I’ve felt some sort of guilt. I never understood why, as my love for God hadn’t changed just the way I related to Him.

Recently, I came across this article by Shauna Niequist. It was a revelation for me. I have come to a place where the old ways of building a relationship with Christ were obsolete — at least for me. For most of my life, going to church built my faith in numerous ways. However, I cannot say that has been true for me for the past 5-7 years.  Part of that is because I was on the mission field trying to understand sermons and worship songs in a different language.  It wasn’t that I haven’t heard a powerful sermon or sung along to anointed worship during those years. I believe it was that God has been calling me to seek Him in ways other than just church. Other things weren’t working anymore as well, even my daily devotional times don’t yield quite the results they did back in college.

In fact, the way God and have been growing together lately are through ways that would have never worked in my younger days. I’m finding Him in solitude — entire days spent alone with just Him as I go about the tasks of the day. I’m finding Him during morning runs where He speaks incredible words of encouragement, wisdom, and guidance. I’m finding Him in nature – reveling in His power and presence as the sun sets, or in the beauty of evening drives along roads dappled with sunlight, or mountain hikes complete with stillness and unspoiled beauty.

The difference is now I see these changes in faith as tools in my toolbox, as Niequist says in her article. I so agree with her statement that “what trips some of us up is the all-or-nothing approach—the idea that if you don’t experience your faith the way you always have, then it’s broken, or worth walking away from. Every relationship changes, and it makes sense to me that our relationships with God change, too, as we grow up and change.”

So when we find that what used build our relationship with God just isn’t working anymore, look around and see what is working. We can’t keep trying the old ways just because someone tells us we should. God wants us to grow– to change– and that always requires that we do some things differently. Today, let’s stop and take inventory of those times that we feel closest to God, of those moments and places where we can hear His voice easily. Then make a plan to integrate those into our lives.

Eventually, as Niequist says, some of your older “faith tools” might come back around again. That doesn’t mean you are falling back into your old relationship with Christ. It means your spiritual toolbox has gotten bigger, and if you use those tools, your faith has a chance to grow once more.