I hide behind snooze buttons and busyness, excuses to avoid you, for fear of what you require of me: everything. Heart, soul, mind, strength, passion, purpose, understanding, ability— all of me, myself in sum, denied. I know my life depends upon surrender, so help my unbelief until I sit and listen and obey.
This poem was inspired, at least in part, by C. S. Lewis’s sermon “A Slip of the Tongue,” wherein he considers our hesitancy to draw too near to God for fear of what he may require of us, for we know that he requires complete surrender.
You wake up feeling refreshed, motivated to get outside in the cool morning air and run. As you work up a sweat, you feel the chill of the breeze on your brow, cooling you as you make progress down the road. The stillness of the morning, dimly lit but ever brightening, holds a kind of peace. Exercise is a joy, a blessing, on days like this.
Some days, however, jogging is more difficult.
You know you need to exercise, but you already feel tired, sluggish at the thought of the heat and humidity. You lower your goals as you run because you know you don’t have the energy to do all you’d intended to do. You struggle to catch your breath, struggle to keep the pace, struggle to find the motivation to keep running. Exercise doesn’t feel like a joy on days like this.
As much as I’d like every run to resemble the first one, the reality is that the second type of run seems to occur more frequently. But both types of runs must be completed for the exercise to produce results. If I only ran when running was easy, I’d rarely run, and I’d see very little benefit from it.
I think the same is true of faithfulness in the Christian life. Sometimes faithfulness seems almost easy. Everyone around you agrees, all obstacles seem manageable (if any obstacles appear at all), and your walk with the Lord fills you with motivation and excitement for the work before you. Other times, however, faithfulness feels much more difficult. Disagreement and division seem to persist around you, obstacles seem unassailable, and your spiritual life feels dry and cold.
As with jogging, so with faithfulness. Faithfulness isn’t only for good days or for easy roads. Faithfulness is for the hard days as well, for the difficult seasons of life, for the “trials of various kinds” James talks about (James 1:2-4). Though we can, and should, count the testing of our faith as joy, the path of faithfulness will not always be pleasant or painless. But the Lord produces fruit in the steadfastness and faithfulness of his people.
So go for that run, even if it’s more difficult today, even if you don’t feel motivated, even if you don’t beat your personal record. And pursue faithfulness, even if it’s more difficult, even if you don’t feel motivated, even if you don’t accomplish all you hoped you would. Let us be found faithful, and let us trust the Lord to produce fruit through our faithfulness.
Last semester, two friends and I decided to run a half marathon. When we signed up for the race, however, we knew we would need to change some habits. I had to break my bad habit of avoiding exercise and form a habit of regular running throughout the week. I had to pay more attention to what I ate and to when I ate, breaking my bad habits of eating whatever and whenever I desired to form new habits of practicing moderation and of eating healthier meals. The process of breaking old habits and of forming new habits was difficult at first, but the work proved worthwhile when we each crossed the finish line of the race.
Fast forward to this semester. I’ve failed to run consistently since the race. I haven’t abandoned exercise altogether, but I haven’t worked as diligently as I did last semester. Although my intentions are good, I’ve found myself slipping back into old habits again.