Tag Archives: runner

Spiritual Sprints #4: gaze

noun – a steady intent look

The view from my evening run.

The view from my evening run.

Here in Sucúa, Ecuador, there are no well-maintained sidewalks or streets. A hole in the road – the size a small child could disappear through – is a typical occurrence. If you don’t keep your eye on the path directly in front of you, it’s a life-or-broken-leg kind of situation.   So on my morning runs, I often run with a downward focus, observant only of the steps immediately in front of me.

Any runner’s magazine will tell you that running head up, taking in the entire path that stretches out before you is the proper runner’s stance. In fact an online Runner’s World magazine article entitled “The Perfect Form: Running Better From Head to Toe,” says this,

How you hold your head is key to overall posture, which determines how efficiently you run. Let your gaze guide you. Look ahead naturally, not down at your feet, and scan the horizon. This will straighten your neck and back, and bring them into alignment.

On my last run, I fought the gaze battle. Since I normally run about the same path, I can feel confident about avoiding Gringo Traps. Even with that understanding, it’s hard to keep my head up and “let my gaze guide” me. I noticed that while looking down, I focused on the rhythm of my feet and the short distance I traveled with each stride. However, when I looked up, I saw the finish line (or my next checkpoint). I saw the gloriously proud mountains peaks covered in jungle mist. I noticed greenery that stretched for miles and ginger-red mud lining secret paths that jutted off my own route. I nodded hello to my fellow runners as we passed on the trail. With an upward gaze, I experienced the run in a whole new way.

This upward gaze advice is something I am applying to my spiritual life as well. Every time I read the Runner’s World quote above, I laugh at just how true it is for those of us running after God.

  • How you hold your head is key: A head down is a sign of defeat, shame, or sadness. My Christian life is none of those, so why do I so often live with my head down during a difficult life situation?  Just look at Psalms 3 NIV: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” Even when I can’t hold my own head high, God is there to do it for me  – to encourage and strengthen me.
  • Let your gaze guide you: Earlier I mentioned how looking down kept me focus on the pounding of feet and short stride. Focusing on these made the route seem long, unattainable, and painful. Changing that gaze to looking up and out at the horizon, to the beauty of the world around me, I realize that the Creator of these is ACTIVE in my life. His power and love for me enables me to go beyond any distance for which I’ve trained. Check out how 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18 (MSG) speaks to this:

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for  us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

  • This will straighten your neck and back bring them into alignment.  Running the spiritual race with our face upward and standing tall, brings us into alignment with God’s plan.  Our view is not diminished, and we learn to look at life from the Big Picture Point of View just like God sees it.  Running with an upward gaze gives us the eyes of Christ. We can see those fellow runners who need encouragement. We can see the beauty of the path before us and its surrounding grandeur. We can run with free hearts knowing that each step keeps us in pace with God’s will. Let’s take a note from Paul who had this “running” thing down:

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. (Phil 3:12 MSG)

I’m like Paul.  I don’t believe I have this running thing all together – physically or spiritually. However, each day, I show up and I run. That’s what counts. I don’t always keep my gaze where it should be, but with each run, I’m learning to set my focus upward and see with the eyes of Christ. On days when it’s tough keeping my head up, I call on Him who is the “lifter of my head.” I  pound out the miles knowing that what I can’t see are the tiny details of my life working out just as God planned. Running with my gaze up means when I cross the finish line, he will say, well done my good and faithful “runner.”


Spiritual Sprint #3: mellifluous

adjective – (of a voice or words) sweet or musical; pleasant to hearphoto

Purist runners don’t need a kickin’ playlist blaring from their headphones to pound out a good race. But for me, I gotta have my tunes.

Oh sure, many will tell me I’m missing out on the wonderful sounds of nature as I cruise the trail. Or my mind can’t properly clear itself of the day’s worries if guitar riffs, bass thumps, and catchy melodies occupy my brain. I disagree.

The music drowns out the world for me and allows my brain to actually focus. On the days when I’ve run without my tunes, the pounding of my tennis shoes beats my brain with the monotony of the activity. My shallow breaths mock and remind me that my heart isn’t as healthy as it needs to be. In fact, they both discourage me into thinking that I can’t actually go the distance – literally!

Therefore, I run with soundtracks. I let the music drown out the pounding of feet and rapid breathing. The beat of the music sets my pace and helps me run the race.

So it is with my spiritual race as well. However, in this case the soundtrack isn’t all lyrics and guitar melodies; it’s the Word of God. I learned long ago that His Word can be an accompaniment to any difficult race I’ve run in my life.  There’s a verse or passage that drowns out the worry and the fear and helps me keep running with purpose. There’s a prayer that steadies my heartbeat with His, instead of letting it run wild and irregular.

When the race’s route is unknown, we can trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not to our own understanding, and He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:4,5).

When we feel we can’t finish the distance He set for us, we must remember in Christ we can do all things (Philippians 4:13) and that the God who began a good work in us is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).

When an injury threatens to keep us from running at all, we can know that all things work together for our good (Romans 8:28) and God has plans for us, plans that bring us a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

As our feet pound the pavement of life and our heart rates try to be controlled by life’s problems,  we should let the Word overpower the distracting sounds of the world and keep running until we reach the finish line.

What’s your favorite tune to work out to  either spiritually or physically?