Thoughts from the Pastor

Life is a Marathon

“and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us”  ~ Hebrews 12:1b

     As I had shared in a recent sermon I ran my first Marathon on October 9th in Baltimore, Maryland. I am thankful for the support I have received from church members, extended family, but most of all my wife and children who have allowed me to take the needed time to train and cheered for me on race day. I’ll go ahead and answer the most common question I get now that the Marathon is done; yes, I plan on running another one!

     I began my running journey over the past few years largely for health reasons. I needed to lose weight and I was aware that heart disease and diabetes runs in my family. However, after the pandemic hit and the longer it has gone on, I have recognized that running has become something more, something I need. I do not intend to sound alarmist and I understand this may be difficult to understand, but I’m not confidant I could have remained in ministry during these past two years were it not for running.

     The stress on all Pastors right now is intense for a multitude of reasons (and I would image even more so for other professions like those in education and healthcare). I know of several colleagues who have walked away from ministry or needed to change congregations as a direct result of the pandemic. Now, I want to make clear that Linville Creek and its leadership have been an additional source of hope, support, and encouragement for me. This is not a commentary on Linville Creek – but on my deep internal struggles against feelings of inadequacy, of the stress of living in constant uncertainty, and yes, the pain experienced from what felt like unfair or hurtful treatment at times.

     Through it all, I discovered that running for me became therapeutic. Even more than therapeutic it became spiritual. When you run for several hours at a time your mind forgets about the process of running, your body simply takes over, and you begin to think more deeply than you ever knew was possible while exercising. To put it another way, running had become full body prayer. As I built up endurance so I could run the 26.2 miles on October 9th, I was building another kind of endurance.

     Marathon training requires you to know your body, mind, and indeed soul better than ever before. Especially for those of us who aren’t naturally gifted runners. Marathon training requires resilience, perseverance, patience, a willingness to adapt, and the ability to both push yourself and have grace for yourself. These are all the things I needed to do to achieve running that distance, but I needed those things in other ways too.

     The good news is the point of this sharing is not that you should run a Marathon or that you should start running. But I have discovered that life itself is its own Marathon. Some miles are more difficult than others, some are uphill, some miles we are tired and praying for a second wind. My prayer is that we all find something that can help us be in tune to our body, our mind, and our soul. For you it may be biking, or walking, working in the garden, hiking, doing a puzzle, coloring, there really aren’t any wrong answers.

            Additionally, I pray that we as a congregation can be a source of resilience and encouragement. That we cheer on, and build up one another. Running has helped me get through the difficult miles of life that were these past two years. But I would have never achieved my goals in running without the support and encouragement of others. I pray for easier road ahead, but I also take heart in knowing that none of us run this race of life alone. Let us run together then, with perseverance, the race that is set before us. Amen.  ~ Pastor Nathan