Running provides a person many life lessons. My motivation to start exercising came from the rising number on the scales and the knowledge that my future health was, ultimately, up to me. While I can’t control everything, I can adopt certain habits that help my body to work optimally. For a few years, that meant running for exercise.

It was really before I had developed the lung capacity to run any distance that I learned the value of training.

In 2002, Dave and I were asked to speak on prayer at a young adult weekend retreat. We readily agreed and enjoyed interacting with the group of 20 somethings that gathered to seek God. Besides the times of reflection, prayer and listening, there was adequate time for social interaction and physical activity.

Saturday afternoon, I was sitting around with some of the participants when one of the young women asked if anyone wanted to go for a run. I thought, “I am interested in exercise. I have thought about running. I want to do this.” So, I responded affirmatively.

Now Abby was a runner. Not just a beginniner, but someone who had been doing it for some time. We started out and for the first 1/4 mile, I was doing great. The second 1/4 mile was more difficult and I wondered if this was a good idea. In the next 1/4 mile, I knew I had overestimated my ability. I told Abby to go on ahead and I would walk a bit. She smiled and kept going.

We were on a highway in I have no idea where, Michigan. Unfamiliar with the road and community, I quickly began to wish I had stayed at the camp. As Abby disappeared into the distance, I realized I needed to turn around and make my way back to camp. Tail tucked, I turned around and headed back toward camp.

The road leading from the highway to the camp was gravel and twisted and turned through the trees. I really did not like being on this road which seemed really deserted and I felt extremely vulnerable. No one was around and no one knew where I was. Then I heard a vehicle coming on this barren, deserted gravel road. I did the only thing I knew to do and turned off the road into the woods.

There wasn’t a neat little trail through the woods to the area where the others were playing volleyball, but I could hear them in the distance. I practiced my best Montana woodsman skills and blazed a trail through the brush toward the noise of the others playing games. I was unrelenting in my pursuit of that noise with no regard for the brush cutting my legs.

I finally broke through the woods into the clearing where the others were. Not wanting to appear desperate, defeated or afraid, I walked out of the woods as nonchalant as I could, like I was just returning from a walk. But inside, I was humiliated and embarrassed.

I came away with a great deal of respect for what it takes to run a distance. I was keenly aware of my lack of training but also strangely grateful that Abby didn’t stop to accommodate my slower pace. I needed to learn this lesson.

Just as I learned that the right clothes don’t make you a runner, desire doesn’t substitute for training. It is certainly a starting point, but only that. I had hours of work to do in order to be ready to go the distance and failure was my best teacher.

I didn’t stop. My legs were bruised and scratched; my ego had a black eye; I was embarrassed. This experience was to me the discipline I needed to take seriously what was required of me.

11No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. 12So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. 13Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

Hebrews 12:11-13

What are your desires and amibitions? Have you experienced failure that threatens to set you back? How can it be used as a springboard that motivates you rather than a hindrance that sidelines you?

Read again the verses for today and determine you will pause to take a new grip, strengthen your hands and knees and mark out a straight path forward!

No failure is pleasant at the time, but it produces a bushel of blessing if we allow it to do its work!

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