As a child, I never understood the idea of running just to run. You ran from whoever was “It” in Hide and Seek. You ran around the bases in your softball game. You ran to hit the ball back in tennis. Those things all made sense. But running laps?? Running laps is what your coach made you do before you got to the fun stuff. That type of running was ridiculous to me. I remember being so frustrated, for example, when we got a new tennis coach my Senior year of high school. He had never played, nor coached, tennis, but he was set in his opinion that we should run a mile before every practice. Now, I had been playing tennis since I was five years old, had played in several leagues, had taken innumerable lessons, and had played for my school since the 8th grade. No one had ever made us run more than a few laps around the courts to warm up. That kind of running simply was not helpful for tennis. I remember silently seething each time we had to run down to the school track, circle it twice, and run back to complete our mile. ”If I wanted to run around in circles like an idiot, ” I thought, “I would have joined the track team.”
A funny thing happened that year, however: I actually began to see some value in doing this thing that I hated so. Perhaps it was the conditioning of the dreaded tennis practices, or the fact that, his predilection for torture aside, I actually liked my tennis coach. Perhaps it was the magazine article I read in either Seventeen or YM that lauded the mental and physical benefits of running. Perhaps I just had a masochistic streak and decided to try to embrace this thing that caused me so much pain. Regardless, I decided to tackle the teen magazine’s simple plan to become “a runner.” I liked that the magazine’s plan talked about running in terms of time, not distance. For instance, it would start with something like, “Run one minute, walk three minutes,” and then work up to longer periods of running. Since we lived on our church’s campground at the time, I would either run the trails or run on the treadmill that was inexplicably housed in one of the sleeping cabins.
That’s where it all began.
In the thirteen years since then, I have been a regular “runner.” I ran steadily through college, through the early years of marriage, and through these years motherhood. I have even taken to recording the days that I run, which helps me maintain some consistency in my practice. Running, in short, has become an integral part of my life. When I go a few days without running, I start to get restless and anxious, eager for my “fix.”
Here’s the thing though: I’m still a horrible runner.
I mean it: I’m terrible! After thirteen years of consistent running, I am still not able to run more than two miles without stopping to walk, and I often can’t even make it that far! Seriously, I’m freakishly bad! Since I started running, I’ve known several people who are in far worse physical shape than I am–even some smokers!–who have started running, and are now running marathons! Marathons, people! And then there’s me…dinkin’ along on my little two mile course, huffing and puffing all along the way.
Truly, I have a problem.
Here’s the crazy part, though: I still love running. Well, I love it as much as one can love something that causes them endless pain and frustration. I am usually eager to go for a run, and I miss it when I can’t fit it in to my day. I have pondered the reasons behind this bizarre love, and I have come to a simple conclusion:
My body was made to run.
It’s obvious, really. Our bodies were designed to move, to be used, to exercise. It’s just part of being human. Thus, even though I’m pathetically bad at running, it is still something that I was made to do.
My unique relationship with running has made me ponder other things that I am bad-at-yet-meant-to-do. I think sometimes we give ourselves a free pass to avoid the things that we are bad at, explaining to ourselves and others that “this” is the way we are made. In some cases, though, I think that we are made to do more than just the things in which we excel. There are some things, like moving our bodies, that everyone is supposed to do, even when we don’t feel like it. For example, my husband has the biggest sweet tooth of anyone I know (well, maybe besides my mama). Meanwhile, I love most fruits and vegetables and can’t resist any dish that has spinach in it. Clearly, eating healthy is more difficult for him than for me. And yet, we are both made to eat healthy foods.
It’s also the same with being a Christian. There are some things that, I believe, every Christian is called to do, even if we are bad at them. In my opinion, one of those things is hospitality. Several verses in the Bible describe hospitality as a Christian trait…and yet, as an introvert, hospitality is not my strong suit. My temptation is to excuse myself from being hospitable, since opening my home falls squarely outside of my comfort zone. I am tempted to use the “one body, many parts” argument to say that hospitality is someone else’s job, while my job is to ramble about my spiritual thoughts on the internet. I’m much more comfortable with that. I honestly don’t believe, however, that “one body, many parts,” excuses us from the basic tenets of Christianity, which include such groaners as denial of self, love for (all) others, and following the radical way of Jesus. Frankly, I’m not amazing at any of those things…but, just like I was physically made to run, I was spiritually made to follow these commands. And the crazy thing is that when I do follow them, as bad as I naturally am at them, I come away feeling…happy. Whole. Free. And just like with running, I start to get antsy when too much time passes between practicing those commands. For example, my stingy self inexplicably starts to get jittery when too much time passes between putting money toward God’s kingdom. My introverted self starts to sweat when two weeks pass without a visitor in my home. My lazy self starts aching when I waste too much time on the internet. Even though I’m naturally a hoarder, naturally private (in some ways), naturally lazy, as a Christian, I was made to practice generosity, hospitality, and self-control.
As bad as I am at those things, they are as necessary to my spiritual health as running and proper diet are to my physical health. Thankfully, I don’t have to be great at these commands to feel the benefit of practicing them. As hard as they are for me, I was made to do them.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go squeeze in a run before my morning gets going.
What things are you comically bad at, yet were made to do?