Last year I completed a major goal. Some of you may have heard me speak about it in passing on Sundays, as it took up a lot of my time. I ran my first full marathon. Twenty-six point two miles. If it seems like a lot of running, well, it is. It required a lot of training and lots of dedication. That’s not exactly what I want to share about it today.
I am, by nature, a go-getter. I like to set goals and meet them. So when I decided in January of 2012 I would make it a goal to finish the marathon, I had every intention of putting every part of me into making this goal a reality. I like running so I didn’t anticipate it being all that hard.
Training started off pretty good. I have a great running partner. You might have met my husband (he’s the walker team leader at 9:30). He has a gift of encouragement and we ran together. When it got to that point in training that our long runs were between 18 and 20 miles, something happened. I realized the tactics I had been using to get me through the shorter runs weren’t sustaining me. In fact, my body was literally beginning to fail me. I could press myself so hard and so far but at around three hours of running, it didn’t matter how much I wanted to or how mentally tough I was or even how encouraging my training partner was, I couldn’t go any more. When I say I couldn’t, please picture me lying on the side of the trail unable to carry my body to the car. Unable to keep food down. Unable to hold up my head. This is when I realized I didn’t have a motivation problem; I had a nutrition problem.
You may have drawn the connection yourself at this point but so many of us have a spiritual nutrition problem. I have it too. It’s the beginning of the year and I am guessing many of you have committed to live more fully for God. You want to serve him better. You want to be more devoted. These are all good things. The willpower to do them will get you off to a good start. You might even have a good training buddy like I did for my marathon. But unless you are giving yourself the right nutrients, your best laid plans to serve God will leave you empty, lying on the side of your spiritual trail, wondering why you even agreed to commit to something that is making you feel so, well, incomplete and empty.
This month on Leaving a Legacy, we’ll be focusing on the word of God. The bible is our spiritual nutrition and it even tells us how we need to fuel up for the marathon of life. Joshua 1:8 in the ESV says “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your moth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV) also reminds us our families and kids need this nutrition as much as we do, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hands, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
You see, you can have the best laid intentions for a year filled with serving God but if you aren’t spending time in His word, getting to know him and fueling up for your marathon, it’s just not going to happen.
At this point you may be wondering “how” to read the bible. If you haven’t picked up a bible reading plan from The Crossing, I would encourage you to start here. It’s broken into meaningful and manageable chunks. Find a buddy and start feeding your soul.
Some of you may be saying you don’t feel like it. Let me say that I didn’t often start feeling faint until it was too late. I had to learn to eat meaningful things during my race but before I knew I needed them. If I waited, I would have already depleted my body.
A wise woman once told me the word of God is like a meal. Sometimes you eat a wonderful meal and it fills you to the brim. You talk about it for days and it becomes a central part of your day, even week. Other times, you eat leftovers or whatever you can get your hands on because your body needs food. It may not be an amazing experience but it keeps your body going on when you otherwise would be too tired to keep moving in your day. The word of God will be the same. Some days you’ll love what you’re reading and other days we read to sustain us even when you might not feel like it’s the best meal you’ve ever had in your life. Lucky for us, the Holy Spirit will work in us through the word even when we don’t know what to do with it.
Finally, if you don’t keep a journal of some sort, I would encourage you to try it. When I was trying to identify my issue of why I couldn’t complete my trainings, I kept track of what I ate on the run and realized what worked and what didn’t. We can do this with the word too, in our own way. Write down questions you have. Talk to God about what you’re thinking about in the passage. Write down verses you want to return to later. Realize what’s feeding you and really focus on it.
In case you are wondering, I found by packing baked potatoes on my marathon, I was able to finish and not feel faint. I needed a pretty substantial meal, not just a packet of gel to keep my body going. It wasn’t the easy solution but it was the long-term one. Once I got it, I was able to complete the race.
I pray that 2013 is a year that you can look back and say you finished your year as strong and nourished as when you started. Maybe even more so. Of course, you’ll also need other tools—prayer, the Holy Spirit, fellowship with other believers. But I pray the word of God nourishes you and lives in your heart in a deeper way than it did in 2012. May you dig in deep and find this race more exhilarating than you ever have before.