07 March 2013

Training

Today no one else showed up for running group. My half is in two weeks. I ran anyway. I ran 5.5 miles. That's the most I've run by myself since I've begun training. In December I could only jog 1 mile. I think I got to 1.5 or maybe 2. But back then it was so painful and I wanted to quit the entire time. But training within a community has enabled me to have the courage to persevere even when things seem bleak. Running with a group I've gotten up to 8 miles, just a few weeks ago. And today, even when no one was there, I was able to complete the course, and see it through to the end.

I think that's a major reason why God puts us in community. To train us. To give us opportunity to know what it's like to be with people, so that when we're not with people, though they are apart from us in the body, they are with us in the spirit. That's called a bond. With God, through Christ, we have a bond with Him that cannot be separated. So when we're out there running the race alone, because sometimes that is what God calls us to do, we will know that although our community isn't with us, they were but a shadow and resemblance of the community we have with God. His encouragements. His exhortations. His confidence given to us to finish the race.

In some ways, loving in a loving community is like learning to ride a bike with training wheels. It isn't meant to be more difficult than riding a bike without training wheels. Yet, it is difficult, because you don't know how to ride a bike and you're just learning. Sometimes, we act as stumbling blocks to those who are learning to love. We shouldn't. We should enable people to love in the way they best know how by whatever means we can.

I remember one particularly difficult Saturday running 7 miles, and I was running with a brother from church. Before this season of training, I would always wear headphones and listen to music and try to drown away the pain. I tried everything. Gangster rap, and running to the beat. Eventually the pain'd catch up to me. I'd even listen to lectures or sermons. Praise music. I think the last two really did help, but I could not focus, and was only thinking of the pain. However, the past few months, I've just been running... To silence. To the sounds surrounding me. I take in the scenery. And I commune with God. I pray to Him, I think about Him, sometimes I'll spontaneously praise, best I can while out of breath. But this particular run, side by side with a brother, he just preached to me the entire time. Sharing testimony. Passages from the Bible. Advice and encouragements into issues in my own life. It's how I got through. Love in community.

I have another brother who I do accountability with. I tried organizing an accountability meeting with the guys in my small group. I tried working around their schedules, but no one seemed to respond. I decided, because of an experience in the past seeing it work during my fellowship in college, to set a date and be consistent about it and meet every week and if you could make it, you would just make it. The first week, only two people made it. It was ok, I thought.. That's fine. The second week, however, and every week after that, it's only been this one brother. He's much older than me. Wiser than me. Instead of me leading him, it seems, he's allowing me to practice leading with him. And I can see it. It helps. It works. And we're both growing because of it.

Training wheels. It's not that riding a bike with training wheels is easy the first time you ride a bike. But you need them or else you'll never know how to ride a bike. And making it difficult for the sake of being difficult won't help anybody.

I came up with this thought, that whole blurb above, while running today. I was about halfway through.. I couldn't see through my glasses. Fogged up. Snowed in. I could perceive perhaps the idle glow of traffic signals and the surrounding city lights beyond the boundaries of Central Park. But I couldn't really see clearly. Only the thoughts in my head and the small, still voice of God. I smiled as this thought occurred to me and looked at the ground. My favorite number, written in spray paint on the asphalt I had just jogged over. I gave a small chuckle to myself. Though I could not see anything, and though numbers or signs shouldn't hold too special a significance over me or the way I lead my life—it was a small enough chuckle to remind me that this is a moment to remember. A thought to keep in my head. Something to share.

The other thing about training wheels is that they have to be symmetrical. Have you ever seen a bike with training wheels for some reason or another the father (sometimes mother) installed incorrectly and made unbalanced? The child in wild disarray wobbles from side to side as they attempt both to learn to pedal and balance in a way that they'll never need to know to balance once they actually learn to ride a bike. The child is learning the wrong things. When the training wheels are unbalanced. When the yoke is unequal. You have to maintain balance, and of the sort you intend to thrive in. Or all that you learn will be for naught.

When I was in my startup, there were four of us. Two of them knew no programming at all. One minored in it but wasn't really willing to join me in the code. We were a tech startup. But I was the one carrying all the burden. The feeling of walking in an unequal yoke has scarred me and damaged relationships in ways that should never really have been damaged. If you are driving a car, and all your tires are slightly flat.. It's not great. But it won't damage your car. If one tire is extremely flat and the rest are all overfilled, it will cause your car to lean to one side, straining the axel, and adding undue pressure and tension in places the car was not designed to handle.

Any relationship can end up like that, honestly.

Some days I am struck with terror at the thought of the realization of being utterly alone. But today I am reminded, I do have community. Many friends reaching out to me. Responding to me reaching back out to them. Even after a prolonged period where we haven't been involved in each others lives or I haven't been able to invest as much as I'd like.. And they're still there for me. Praying for me. Encouraging me. Reminding me of what's important. Even rebuking me. But all for love. And it's worth it.

Fighting sin in your life on your own is like battling a hydra with a sword. You cut off a head, and two grow in its place. A never ending hack and slash that just grows darker and darker until you've no more recourse, and have exhausted all your resources.

Only God can truly cut off the head of a water serpent so it doesn't grow back. He does that through the turning of our hearts. Repentance. The fear and awe of the holiness of God.

06 March 2013

A. Heel & Some Thoughts

Every chance I get I'll tell someone about how I'm training for a half-marathon. 13.1 miles, I'll mention. Exuding, sometimes, confidence.

It's not that great. I don't think most people actually care. But I have a co-worker who will ask me from time to time how my joints are doing. I complained a few weeks back about my ankle, wore a brace when I walked around, and even saw a podiatrist (a foot doctor, a word I learned when I took my 2.5 quarters of first-year ancient Greek). He told me that I had good movement of my ankle, and to rest it. I had been ramping up my training too quickly, he said. I should slow down.

Have you ever seen a canary fly? He asked the question like the title of a poem that runs into the poem. The kind of poem that's spoken, and you forget that it's been speaking because it blends into you. That sort of poem. The kind that blends into you.

I'm training for a half-marathon, everyone. 13.1 miles. The most I've run so far was last week. 8 miles. That was a doozy. Am I ready? Not exactly. But I've for some reason or another attributed special significance to this race. Placed all my hope into it, as if by crossing that finish line I'd reach a break through. I told myself some months ago that this marathon would be in some part symbolic of my spiritual life. My walk with God. My transformation from unrepentant sinner to sanctified saint. I had a lot of things to work on. Character flaws to address. Insecurities to confront.

I suppose I signed up for this race almost in some part as if to prove something. That I could endure any kind of trial, work through any sort of pain, if in the end the outcome were worth it. Some culmination of months of hard work and dedication. A catharsis for my stifled life. But it seems, as the deadline is drawing near, life is actually just getting more complicated. And far from the catharsis I had hoped the race would be, it'll be more like a lame duck. A gun firing off only to have the smoke clear and reveal a little red flag on a stick unfurling to say:
BANG! made in china