I have continued to teach my students about persevering through trials this year. We have focused on James 1:2-4:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
The job of kids is to grow up, to become mature and complete. As I mentioned in my previous post, we parents have often sabotaged our kids by removing the struggles and pains of life, thereby handicapping them so they don’t know how to deal with pain, disappointment, or rise to the occasion, face problems head on and solve them.
As always, when I am teaching my students truths from God’s word, I am always learning more myself. Have you ever wanted to try something, by you find yourself squashing your own desire with “you can’t do that” or “you are not good at that”? Ever since college I wanted to be a runner. I ran some in college, but always got violently sick and finally I quit. I determined that “I can’t run.” Fast forward to a few years ago when The Biggest Loser came on TV and I saw very obese people eventually work to the point of being able to run a marathon. It seemed impossible, and yet, with hard work and perseverance (and a relentless personal trainer), they did it! That started to chip away at my own belief about myself. I started to wonder if maybe I could run.
Then my youngest daughter started running and she signed up for a half marathon to run with her mother-in-law. She ran it and loved it and has done more since. I sure would like to run one with her sometime. Hmmm.
In December, I participated in a local 5K by walking. I have walked a lot of 5Ks, but this time, it lit a fire in me and I decided it was time to put aside my assumption that “I can’t run. I am not a runner.” and redefine myself. Part of the reason was that I wanted to do a 10K and the first one I considered signing up for wouldn’t have given me enough time to walk it. I would have to run to finish in time. So I found an app that would train me from a non-runner to a 10K in 13 weeks. Great! That’s just enough time to be ready for the 10K I wanted, so I signed up for the 10K right away to hold myself accountable. On December 6, I put on my headphones and started the app and committed to doing whatever the app told me to do. The app was created for beginners like me, so I told myself that no matter how I felt, I was going to trust the app. My first day I walked for 5 minutes to warm up, ran 1 minute, walked 1.5 minutes, ran 1 minute, walked 1.5 (6 times) then cooled down walking for 5 minutes. In 25 minutes I had run only 6 total minutes. That’s not a lot, is it? But every other day, as recommended by the app, I go back out and do the next training. A couple of weeks ago, I RAN my first 5K without walking at all in between, and placed 6 out of 33 in my age category. I am on my way to the 10K.
On Friday, my training took 80 minutes, 60 of which was running. I’ve come a long way. I was tired and it was long. The first part of the run, I just thought “I’m too tired, this is too hard, this is too long, I can’t do it…” Then my commitment reminded me to trust the app and Hebrews 12 came to mind:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
My husband came to cheer me on at my first 5K run. Knowing he was there and that I also had students running, helped me persevere so that they could see that I didn’t quit or wimp out. As believers, we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses! As a school principal, I am surrounded by staff, students, and school families. Are they witnessing me persevere through trials and come out triumphant and faithful?
When I run, I wear clothing that makes it as easy to move as possible. I want shoes that fit and support my feet. I don’t want my garments to weight me down or to chafe. I don’t carry anything that could slow me down or trip me up. Yet in life, we often put obstacles in our own way. We fill our homes with things that tempt us and distract us from more important endeavors. We find time for Facebook but can’t seem to find any available time to spend with the Lord. What trips you up? What can be removed so that you are not slowed in your progress?
One thing I have learned as I have tried to improve as a runner, is that it helps your energy and focus if your posture is right. If I pull my head up and look straight ahead instead of down, my breathing is easier and my pace is stronger and faster. As I look far ahead, I seem to get there more swiftly, and I enjoy more of the scenery along the way as well. We endure our trials, whatever they are, when we fix our eyes on Jesus; He is the beginning and the end of our faith! Keeping our eyes on Him is like seeing the finish line in the distance. It keeps our focus on what is real and true instead of how we feel, and it strengthens us to persevere.
What I have learned about endurance or perseverance in my journey to become a runner is that endurance is more mental than physical. I notice that after the first few minutes of running, my breathing and heart rate level out. So it’s not because I’m breathless that I want to quit. It’s because it still takes effort and I’m tired, my legs ache, and it’s long and I can’t always see the end from the beginning, but I have always trusted the app. I trusted that it knew what I should be able to do even if I felt like giving up, so if it said I could run 35 minutes straight then I focused on what it believed I could do and just did it. And you know what? I did it, so the app was right! When God says we can make it through trials, no matter how hard, and we feel like we just can’t, we can trust Him. He is with us. He strengthens us. He knows better than us. He made us! Even when it seems insurmountable or impossible, trust Him!
I am a runner! I didn’t know it, but I am! Don’t miss out on what God has planned for you because it is too hard or painful.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.