“Okay, Anna, you can walk now,” I said to our seven-year-old, who was about to start running up a long, steep section of trail in Valley Forge Park. We were two miles into a four-mile family hike/run and though she had kept up with us to this point, I wasn’t sure how long she would last. “No one runs this hill, it’s too long and steep! We can just walk to the top.”
Little did I know I had just issued a challenge. I could see the wheels in her little mind turning, No one? NO one?
Yes, she did run up that hill. A seven-year-old left the rest of us in her dust and ran all the way to the top without stopping. And then proceeded to complete the rest of the four miles without hesitation.
That’s when we knew it was time to sign Anna up for our annual family race – the Crush Childhood Cancer 5K*.
It’s one thing when you’re showing up your older sisters (and parents) on a mountain, but it’s another thing to keep running when no one really cares. In our training runs, we learned a lot about what it means to just keep moving.
To a seven-year-old, it only makes sense that if your legs hurt, you should slow down. If you’re tired, you should walk. If your tummy hurts, you should stop. And if all this is happening at mile one, there’s “no way” you’re going to be able to do 3.1!
But “Coach Mom” has some words for you:
Everyone’s legs hurt when they run. You can still run when your legs hurt.
Everyone gets tired when they run. You can still run when you’re tired.
Everyone’s tummy hurts when they run. You can still run when your tummy hurts.
You can do this!
When Jesus prayed for His future followers in John 17:20-23, His number one request was “that all of them may be one”. (v. 21 & 22) And if our unity is Jesus’ number one priority, then by the laws of physics it will, of course, become our number one struggle. If the whole point of “church” is the gathering of people joining together to push forward the kingdom of God, it only makes sense that we’ll experience some pushback from God’s enemy.
As an introvert, “church” is one of the hardest times of my week. It’s not that I don’t like the people (I love you all, I really do!), it’s just that I would much rather be alone in a field somewhere 😉 When you have social anxiety, every Sunday is hard. Every event is hard. Every gathering is hard.
Maybe you’re not an introvert, but maybe church is a struggle for you because of a relational conflict. Maybe you have some disagreements about the way things are done or how certain situations have been handled in your church. Maybe you have a schedule conflict where something else has taken priority during that time. Maybe you’re just schedule-overwhelmed and Sunday mornings are your only break. Maybe you’re burned out from serving in the church and feeling underappreciated. Even my husband, whose heart literally beats, “Church… Sunday… People… Yay!… Church… Sunday… People… Yay!”, has days where it’s the last place he wants to be!
And it only makes sense in our minds that if something is hard, we should stop doing it.
A few weeks ago, I was again in “Coach Mom” mode, explaining to Anna that, “Every time I run, my legs hurt. Every time I run, I get tired. Every time I run, my tummy hurts.” Overhearing this, my 11-year-old started to laugh and said to me, “Then why in the world do you do it?”
“Because I want to keep my body healthy and every time I run I’m reaching that goal!” I replied.
In a counseling session recently, my counselor asked: “If ministry causes you stress, then why do you do it?”
My answer was the same: “Because I want to stay spiritually healthy, I want my church to stay spiritually healthy, and every time I go I’m reaching that goal!”
In the closing words of his letter to the Romans, Paul counsels the church to not be discouraged by the division and obstacles threatening them. In verse 20, he declares: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.”
Who will crush Satan? God.
But whose feet does He use? Yours.
Every time I don’t want to go to church and I walk in those doors anyway, I’m crushing Satan under my feet.
You can still run when you’re tired.
You can still run when your legs hurt.
You can still run when your tummy hurts.
And, as we found out on Saturday, you can still run when you desperately need a restroom!
“Church” may be hard and it may not bring you all the good feelings it seems to promise – but every time you walk in those doors you’re not only crushing Satan, but also keeping yourself and the rest of us spiritually healthy!
Anna did complete the 5K this Saturday. She ran the whole way and finished in less than 30 minutes!
*For more information on this great cause, check out crushchildhoodcancer.org