Chapter four of the book Running: the Sacred Art made me really stop to think.

The author tells a story about Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest well known for his writing, who wanted some time away from the pressures of life to renew himself. Nouwen went to a monastery to live for seven months. During that time he was able to do the things he needed to in order to renew himself – pray, meditate, etc. At the end of his seven months Nouwen was set to leave the monastery and realized that the pressures of life haven’t changed because of his time in the monastery. What he came to realize, and what we all need to realize, is that we must go to the monastery within our daily life; we need to find ways to renew ourselves and feed ourselves within daily life, not only when we go on retreat. I know have encountered similar feelings when I have gone on 7-day silent retreats the last few years. They are renewing and rewarding in many ways – it never ceases to amaze me how much I am challenged and changed in that time – but then I return to the same life I left a week ago, the same pressures, stresses and joys. The challenge becomes how to bring that retreat experience of God more intentionally into my daily life. I still want my week away to go deeper, but finding ways and places to renew myself daily is just as necessary to healthy living. Running is like the monastery – it is a place that we can go to every day or a couple times a week, where we can be renewed in body, mind and soul!

This morning after our run the group was sharing. The author talks in this chapter about the difference between routines (getting up, showering, brushing my teeth, etc as I get ready for the day), traditions (yearly birthday celebrations, anniversaries, watching the Olympics or the super bowl, etc) and rituals (intentional things we do to bring meaning, significance or identify what we are doing as holy). It was a great topic of conversation – many of us have routines and patterns that we follow, but ritual was tougher to identify. Many of us pray during our runs. We talked about the people we run into, or the paths we take which allow us to think about things other than “where-am-I” so that we can open ourselves to deeper ponderings in our heart and mind. Ritual is harder to recognize, it’s something intentional and practiced until it becomes second nature – like making the sign of the cross is second nature to most of us and we do it without even thinking. My routine is to roll out of bed, get dressed, start any app’s I need for that day, and head out the door, it’s after I start running (and wake up completely!) that God and I begin talking with one another. Both last week and this week the group prayed together before taking off for the park, it’s a beautiful prayer for before a run! This is an area I need to be more intentional in.

This topic really had me thinking this morning. On my walk back to work I had crossed First Street and someone waved at me from their car. I waved back, and it hit me as I looked at the drivers in the cars all looking ahead, getting their day started – could I pray for those I encounter on my run? So I started to pray for those people as they headed into their day and wherever their day may take them. Being intentional about bringing God into our run is how we make running a place of sanctuary, a place where we can meet God more deeply than the rest of our day as we run from meeting to meeting or commitment to commitment.

My challenge for the next week: I like running in the mornings, it gets my day started on the right foot. It always makes me feel recharged and ready to face the demands and stressors of the day. As I pondered this chapter and the discussion this morning I reflected back on some thoughts I had during my run earlier in the week – I have my set area that I typically run in, and I don’t really deviate from there and that brings comfort, that brings ease to my running, but could it also be limiting me? Am I holding myself back by staying where I am comfortable? Do I need to expand my “path” and run in a place unfamiliar with no “coach” (or app) telling me how fast or slow I am going? What would happen if I completely stepped out of my comfort zone and just ran? That’s what I am pondering today – I’m going to give it a try and I’ll let you know how it goes!

What about you –

  • What are some rituals you have to bring God into your day?
  • What routines, traditions or rituals do you have surrounding your run?