In the picture above you see 2 photos of me - one from a year ago and one from last week. I look at myself everyday and I know that my body has changed slowly over the last 9 months, but when you compare side by side and see the changes it's amazing to me! This change was only possible because I put in the hours of running each week, because I would reconfigure my schedule each week to figure out when and how I would get my running in. When I look at those pictures though, to me they represent so much more than just the physical transformation that I have made in the last year; for me I see the pounds of emotional baggage that I have let go of as well as the spritiual strength training that made it all possible!

In chapter 1 of the book the author talks of how families used to spend hours cooking and making meals but in today’s world there are many people who will do fast-food or a restaurant for a majority of their meals, still being nourished by food, but missing out on some of the wonderful blessings that come with the preparation and cleanup. I remember growing up and working in the kitchen with my parents or my sisters to make meals and to do the dishes afterwards. In our house going out to eat was a real treat, and although not having to do the work of preparing a meal or cleaning up afterwards, there was something lacking in those meals.

In today’s world we have often found that people want to do “fast-food” for everything – let’s get it done and move on. One thing I have learned about running is that reading about it, watching videos about it, or talking about it – all good things and ways to learn and grow – will not make me faster or go for longer distances. The only thing that will make me faster or increase my endurance is to go out and run the miles. This is the same with spirituality. The only way for me to grow in my relationship with God is to spend time in relationship with God. In both running and spirituality there are no short-cuts, there are not “fast-food” solutions, in order to grow you must put in the time and energy.

Let’s look at our three aspects of spirituality – our relationship with our self, others and God. What work do you need to put into these areas?

First we want to be in right relationship with our self. One thing I have learned in the last year through both running and my Spiritual Direction program is that we must be honest with our self. In order to grow in running and to grow in spirituality there is no hiding the truth or covering up I must be vulnerable and open, I must be honest about who I am and in regards to all my strengths and weaknesses. When I run it’s me – there are no fancy clothes or make-up to hide behind. The other day I took a fall in front of a gentleman who was out walking with his cup of coffee, as I got up we both were able to laugh about the ‘hazards’ of running. There was no hiding my stumble, it was what it was and there was nothing I could do but roll with it! When we are with God it’s the same – there is no place to hide. Adam and Eve tried the whole hiding thing in the garden, it didn’t work for them either.

Second we want to be in right relationship with others. Next time you are out running look around you. Look at those out there with you. We are all vulnerable as we get out there! We are a community that either lifts one another up or tears one another down. The gentleman with his coffee is part of my morning run – LOL – I see him most mornings. I could not tell you his name, but I look forward to seeing him and being reminded of my need to remain humble in all things. How do you encounter people you see on your run? What gift do you bring to them? Do you encourage or discourage?

Third we want to be in right relationship with God. When we run, it’s our time to be one with nature, with God, to let go of the distractions of the day and just be. We still need to know our surroundings, but we can be with God in a whole new way. A couple months ago I was running at a campground and was a little more hyper-vigilant that usual and as I ran around a curve in the road movement caught my eye and I stopped. In the next 30 seconds I witnessed 7 or 8 deer all moving slowly in the wooded area. I just stood there and took in the beauty of the moment, and then I thanked God for sharing that with me and moved along. It was a wonderful moment that reminded me of the beauty of creation and how interconnected we all are!

For your journal:

What is the main thing standing in the way of having a good relationship with yourself? With others? With God? What caused the obstacle? What can you begin to do to dismantle or overcome that obstacle? Before you go for your next run, review what you’ve written so you can ponder it as you run and perhaps discover what you can do to remedy your situation. (Page 17 of Running – the Sacred Art)