Walk, Don't Run

I was out of shape.
I mean don’t get me wrong I was working out 5 days a week, but I was primarily focused on lifting weights, getting stronger, flexing muscles, that kind of thing. I was way less concerned with my cardio, food choices, and overall health. I had gained some weight from my careless eating habits and I noticed how rough my conditioning had gotten. I couldn’t jog a track without being severely out of breath. This eventually led to enough discontentment that I was spurred to action. I decided to take up running.
Now my only experiences with running at this point were not good ones. I ran cross country in middle school as a kid who struggled with asthma. That combo didn't add up. I moved on from cross country and dove into football. My experience with running there was one of punishment. We were told to do sprints whenever we goofed off or were playing badly so, again, I wasn’t a big fan. I wrestled for two years in high school and this was when I was in the best shape of my life. Wrestling is one of the most difficult sports as far as conditioning goes and at this point, I was able to run a sub 6:00 minute mile. It was a painful time, but it was a rewarding time. I was able to see what hard work and perseverance could get me. That was the last time I took any kind of cardio seriously.
Now I’m 21 years old worried about the way things are going to progress if I don’t take some kind of action. So I buy a pair of running shoes and just go for it.
That’s what you are supposed to do right? Dive in head first and have no kind of plan?
Well, that's what I did and it didn’t help that I had “sub 6:00 mile” burnt into the back of my mind. It was like that was the only acceptable number for me and anything less was a failure. What I didn’t understand was that going on my first run as fast as I could for a mile was not the greatest game plan.
The first week of running was a disaster. I killed myself trying to run at an old pace I wasn’t properly trained for. I ran too hard and I couldn’t even finish a mile. I was discouraged and felt like giving up faster than I would like to admit.
What's the saying?
“The greatest teacher, failure is.” -Yoda
Yeah, I felt that. And it produced a new sense of humility in me I didn’t have when I started out with my ambitious running goal. I actually found it valuable to do some research on best training practices. Who would have thought?
From my research, I gathered some interesting concepts. The 3 things that stood out to me were the following: 1. Be aware of your limits 2. Start small 3. Start early
Limits. That first one hit me. I was NOT aware of my limits. I was so consumed with an old dream that I forgot the fact that I was out of shape. Experts encourage runners to know the reality of where they are instead of assuming where they should be.
Start small. Running short distances at a slow pace to get used to the workouts helps prepare your body physically and mentally. I chose to hurt my body physically and discourage myself mentally.
Start early. This referred to training for a race. If you wanted to run a race you were told to start as early as possible giving yourself a long time to train before competing. In my head, I assumed I could run a 10k in the next few weeks!
This whole experience got me thinking do I ever do the same thing with God? Do I ever run too hard, ignoring my limits, starting out big too fast? The short answer is yes. I can get ambitious with goals about the spiritual life never really considering if God is with me or not.
There is a reason I think the Bible illustrates our relationship with God as one where we “walk with him”. Genesis 6:9, Micah 6:8, and Deuteronomy 5:33 are good references to name a few.
Kosuke Koyama wrote a book called Three Mile an Hour God where he said, “Love has its speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore the speed the love of God walks.’
To walk with God is to move through life at his grace-sustaining pace. To strive out of our flesh is to ignore our limits and disobey God.
There are quite a few stories in the Bible that illustrate ungodly ambition, but none more striking in my opinion than the life of Solomon. His story is one of great beginnings, but we all have read enough stories to realize that doesn't promise faithful endings. Solomon was marked by wisdom which he asked for specifically from God and he was known for his abundant wealth which God also blessed him with. He seemingly stewarded his wisdom well in the beginning. In one instance Queen Sheba traveled over 1,000 miles to visit Solomon and just glean from him.
God commands Solomon to build a temple so his presence can come and dwell with the people and Solomon obeys him. It seems like all is well and Solomon is killing it, but there is also this undertone in the story of disobedience. For instance, Solomon builds the temple, but he builds a palace complex that is bigger! He spent seven years building the temple, but took thirteen to build his own palace!
Clearly at this point, if you are reading this story and paying attention you realize that Solomon’s heart is divided. He wants God's glory, but he also wants his own. He isn’t fully committed to obeying God. 1 Kings 9:1 puts it pretty clearly, “When Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace, and had achieved all he had desired to do.
So after building the temple, God tells Solomon he will bring his presence there, but he gives a sharp warning. He says that if Solomon doesn’t obey the commands he has given him and goes off to worship other Gods, Israel is going to pay for it. He will cut them off from the land and reject the temple Solomon built.
Time goes on and that's right you guessed it Solomon became disobedient. He stopped stewarding his wealth well. Mammon corrupted his heart. He married 700 wives and had 300 concubines. Talk about too much too fast. He was led deeper and deeper into selfishness. He was formed by the things he continually indulged in and when he was old the Scripture says, “his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God” (1 Kings 11:4).
Solomon's story is a tragic one. A story with much harsher consequences than my bad running plan. But how did Solomon end up where he did? I think what C.S. Lewis says might have something to do with it, “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions that you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.”
Solomon had a great start. God was with him and blessed him with great gifts, but those gifts used in the wrong way caused Solomon's downfall. When Solomon used the very gifts God had given him to feed his flesh it killed him.
So how do we live well? What does it look like to let him lead? How do we avoid burnout, sin, and a bad ending? Since I quoted Yoda already, I’m hoping it’s ok to reference what Uncle Ben said to Peter Parker.
"With great power comes great responsibility.”
Responsibility looks like walking with God, living at the sustaining pace he gifts us with. Jesus is our model. If anyone didn’t have to live at a sustained pace it was Jesus, but then again maybe he was modeling something. Jesus lived in obscurity for 30 years doing manual labor before he began his ministry. Even when he did ministry he often times withdrew in the seasons of popularity. He prioritized abiding with the Father and out of the overflow of his abiding he served.
Jesus is called the good shepherd. A shepherd is a guide. The interesting thing about shepherds is how they lead. Sheep are led from the front, not the back. When we get ahead of God like Solomon we oftentimes create our own problems because we don’t allow him to shepherd our hearts.
Just as Jesus did we must learn to abide. I have noticed in my own life the times I neglect prayer are the same times I become ambitious, striving out of my own strength.
Martin Luther is famous for holding his busyness and prayer together. He says, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”
For Luther, prayer was an anchor for his soul. To neglect it in seasons of busyness is how you end up like Solomon, moving farther and farther away from God’s heart. When we do this we don’t just drift, we gravitate to our flesh, our pride, and our goals.

So if you can learn anything from Solomon and my failed running plan remember the three principles I should have embraced at the beginning.

1. Be aware of your limits

At the end of the day do you feel ‘good’ tired where you stopped at the right time or exhausted like you got the life sucked from you?

2. Start small

Are you biting off more than you can chew? Are your ambitions God-honoring or are you working from the flesh?

3. Start early

Are you giving yourself the proper preparation before jumping into something too big? Are you growing slowly with God or becoming something God didn’t intend for you yet?

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30