I am not a runner. At least that is what I thought until this past spring when an exchange student-teacher, Nadiana, who was staying with us decided she wanted to run in Portland’s 5k Starlight Run. She also decided she wanted me to join her in the run. In one of my weak moments I accepted the challenge and said, “Yes.”
As the date approached, I committed to train myself for the event. At first, I could run three minutes on a treadmill without running out of breath. So, that first day I ran three minutes and walked two minutes for a total distance of two miles. What was the result? For the next two days I could barely walk from all the aches and pains. Needless to say, I was discouraged. But I went back to the treadmill three times per week and gradually worked up to running five minutes and walking for two minutes for a total distance of three miles.
I was progressing in my training, but, at the same time, I was still quite nervous about the event, which resulted in me approaching my training with a sense of dread. Since I had plenty of time to think during these training sessions, I began to ponder why I was fearing this 5k “fun run.” I realized that I did not want to embarrass myself in front of thousands of people lining up the streets of Portland pretending to be a runner along thousands of other real runners.
Once I figured that out, I was able to laugh at myself and began having fun instead of trying to be perfect. After all, it really did not matter how far I could run without stopping, or that I looked more like a turtle than a gazelle. What mattered was having this experience with Nadiana and challenging myself. What also mattered was that I was moving in a way that I had never moved before.
Needless to say, we had a blast as we felt the encouragement of all the bystanders yelling, “Go runner!” I had so much fun that I am still running. I am now up to running 18 minutes and walking 2 minutes for a total of 3 miles. My goal is to be able to run the entire 5k Starlight this next spring.
As my youngest daughter, who runs cross country, wisely shared the other day, “Running is 90% mental.” Every extra minute, 100 yards, or street corner that I add to my routine requires me to tell myself that I can do it. I have surprised myself multiple times running past my next goal effortlessly, not because I thought that I could but, rather, because my mind was paying attention to other things at the time instead of reminding myself to stop! After all, what do I think I am... a runner?
This whole running experience got me thinking about the church. Transformation of any type is 90% mental. Whether we are planting a new church or transforming an existing one, the biggest obstacle to growth is often ourselves, especially if we do things that we have never done before. To affect change requires confidence, motivation, and momentum. This is hard to come by when we have no experience with doing something new and unfamiliar.
John Wesley experienced this as well. When Peter Bohler told him that salvation was achieved by faith alone, Wesley’s first impulse was to cease preaching. But, the Moravian beseeched him to “Preach faith until you have it, then because you have it you will preach it.” Wesley followed that advice and found shortly thereafter that his “heart was strangely warmed with a sure trust and confidence that God loved even him.”
It is that experience of Grace that continues to transform the world. Other expressions of that advice could be: “Run until you are a runner or transform yourself until you are a transformer of the world.”
All of my life I never imagined becoming a runner. I never thought that it was possible. But, with the help of my daughter as my coach, a persevering heart, and a reachable goal, I am becoming a runner. If I can do this, so can you!
So what operating assumptions in your own life need to be transformed from a “that’s impossible” to a “why not give it a try?” What fear is blocking you from moving forward? And, how can you re-imagine the situation so that this obstacle can become a blessing? Likewise, what things need to shift in your church so that the process of transformation takes root and gains momentum? What are the little goals that you can set that will put you on a path to living into your wildest dreams?