Obedience often precedes desire

This is the first of a blog series called “Running the Race.” Most Thursdays, I will be sharing what God has and is teaching me through my running experiences. Even if you aren’t a runner or athlete (honestly, I’m not either!), I hope you find encouragement to tackle your challenges with Jesus by your side.

Last year I completed a three-month journey to become a runner. Spanning from August to November, little by little my endurance and strength grew until I am now able to run for half an hour. (Read more about my journey here.)

This exercising plan was about obedience. In fact, there were many (MANY) days that I didn’t want to run. It wasn’t convenient, the weather didn’t always cooperate or I wasn’t feeling that great. But, I did it anyway. God had placed this call on my life to run, and so I did. It wasn’t my desire to get in shape or lose weight or look better in my jeans that kept me running. It was a commitment to obey God no matter what. Eventually, as time went on, I realized I was actually looking forward to running.

After reaching my goal, December hit, and prioritizing the time to continue this commitment became harder than it was when I was working my way up to 30 minutes. The last two weeks of December in particular, with Christmas and New Year’s, were a complete bust.

And, now I’m back to very little desire to drive into town to run in the gym, since it’s too cold and muddy to run at our house.

Even though I don’t want to, I’m going to. I will again choose obedience, and let God work on my desire.

Each of us has an area of our life that we KNOW we need to change. Spiritually, there are way too many of us Christians who know we need to get into God’s Word everyday, spend time with Him in prayer, hide His Word in our hearts and be actively teaching our children God’s precepts (not just expecting Sunday School teachers and pastors to do it).  But, when it comes down to it, we don’t make time, we make excuses. We’re too busy. It’s not convenient. Bottom line: we choose to disobey.

I remember in college I became very convicted that I was not spending daily time with God. Oh, I knew I should be reading the Bible and praying, but it was easier to just go to church and talk a good game than actually making time to become what God wanted me to be. Finally, I picked up my Bible one morning and began to read. I actually prayed and told God that I didn’t want to be doing this and was only reading this chapter to get Him off my back. But, I kept reading one chapter each morning because I knew it was the right thing to do. Eventually it became a habit, and God began stretching my heart.

I remember opening my eyes from sleep several months later, and the first thing I felt compelled to do was grab my Bible to see what God had to say to me that day. I jumped down from my loft bed (dorm-room style), and flipped open the Word of God. As I devoured the text, I suddenly realized what God had done. He changed my heart. He gave me the desire, when I had, ever so begrudgingly, chosen to obey.

God can and will do the same for you, where He is calling you to do what He says.

Take that first step of faith, even if you don’t feel like it.

Choose to obey.

30 minutes

My worn-out running shoes

It took 12 weeks.

To be honest, it took five years and 12 weeks to begin and follow through on what God said to do.

For years I have known I needed to do this. But, I was a professional procrastinator, an expert on rationalization. I was too busy. What would I do with my kids? I’ll focus on that when I have the opportunity to stay home or when the kids are in school. If I just eat better that will be enough. Is it really that big of a deal? And, finally, I just admitted I simply didn’t care.

Too long, regular exercise for me was about getting in shape, looking better and having more energy. I would try a workout video and get bored. I bought a glider and had several spurts to make that a habit and failed. I’m a cheap skate, and I conveniently couldn’t justify spending money to go to a gym.

Finally, at the end of this summer, I chose to listen to what God had been saying for all this time. What changed everything for me had nothing to do with “becoming a better me” or losing weight.

It had everything to do with obedience.

In my spiritual life, discipline is integral to my daily time with the Lord through the reading of His Word and prayer, consistent involvement in our church, and dedication to service in the areas of ministry He has given to me. However, I had somehow separated my physical body from my spiritual life. That discipline in my faith didn’t encompass ALL my life.

Jesus gave it to me straight: Are you going to obey me and become disciplined in this area of your life, or will you choose to directly disobey me?

There could be no more gray. I HAD to choose.

And, I couldn’t bear the thought of deliberately disobeying and disappointing my God.

That very week, one of the blogs I follow pointed my attention to a free e-book on Amazon called Running for Beginners: The Easiest Way to Start Running. God must have prompted me to download it, because I have always despised running. Yet, once I started virtually flipping through the pages, I couldn’t stop until I had finished it. Maybe this was how I could obey God’s command. I talked to Matt that very night about the plan hatching in my head. I told him what God had said to me. He volunteered to join me on this journey.

I started running on Tuesday, Aug. 28. I did eight sets of running one minute and walking 1.5 minutes. Looking back, running only one minute seems so trivial, but it was a HUGE deal for a person who hadn’t exercised consistently since before having children. We followed the plan to the letter, bought a great timer app for our phones, and ran three times a week with the intervals outlined.

In those first few weeks, I had to continually remind myself why I was doing this. God told me to. And, I told Him I would.

Mud run in the pouring rain

So, I ran in the rain and the mud.

Running at dawn

I woke up and hit our gravel lane before the sun had peeked over the horizon, and the morning stars beckoned me on.

Running around and around the church gym

I ran countless laps around our gym at church while my wonderful daughter rolled basketballs around and watched movies. I worked the routine into and around our weekend trips. I ran in shorts and T-shirts, and multiple layers and gloves. As the leaves changed from green to yellow to red to brown, I ran.

Running through fall

I ran to obey my Savior. And, He did a miracle in me.

Today, I reached my goal of running 30 minutes straight, because of Him. I give Him ALL the glory.

Where has God been speaking to you about your commitment to Him? Are there areas of your life that you lack discipline? Chances are that first thought is one God has spoken to you about and for whatever reason you have dodged His command or are dragging your feet.

Obey Him. It is ALWAYS worth it. Even if it seems impossible, He WILL give you the strength you need to complete the task and praise Him in the process.

Start running. And, don’t look back.