I love to run. In my humble opinion, it is the purest of all sports because it is just an individual against him or herself and the elements. No matter the terrain or the weather, the basic activity of running is the same.
I can remember the first time I ever went out on a run strictly for the sake of running. I mean to say that I went out not to run as a part of another activity but just to run. I was 11 years-old, and I lived on a military base in Italy. Growing up I always remember my dad coming in from eight, nine, or ten mile runs, and I thought that was the greatest thing, but I didn’t think I would ever be able to do that. So, I even surprised myself when I asked my dad, if I could run with him. He picked a day when he wasn’t going to go very far… only three miles, a managable distance he thought. So we went out, and I can remember trying to emulate his motions and movements so I would be able to go the distance.
Up to that point I ran like all kids run… you know flailing arms and legs, just flying. If you have ever seen the “Friends” episode where Phoebe runs you know what I am talking about… Most of the time I would run playing tag, or soccer, or something else so it was a means to an end, and I didn’t care about form or perserving energy or anything. But now with my dad running was different. Running became the end unto itself.
Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” That got me to thinking about the difference between the way kids run and the way adults run. They’re free, fast, flying, flailing. They have terrible form. If they ran like that long enough they would get hurt. But there is enthusiasm. Jesus said this Matthew to demonstrate how we are to think and feel and approach God… with enthusiasm, with all of who we are.
But does that mean, we stay like children in our faith, only going after the “fun” of it? Only satisfied with the high energy, undignified, exciting expressions of our adoration of him? Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
So which is it? Well, it’s both. As I read these two Scriptures I can see that there is a difference between childlikeness and childishness. When we approach God after first becoming a Christian it is new and different, and there are new emotions and thoughts and it is exciting, but after a while that fades. Sometimes it fades when we read tough passages of the Bible to understand… like the book of Job or Leviticus. For some people it just happens because of time. Some Christians always seek that excitement and don’t want to hear anything about the justice of God, or the punishment of the lost, or talk about the necessity of sacrifice. They believe Christianity is all the time happiness and as a result they seek the childishness of faith. But God calls us to be childlike, but not childish.
I look at how I run now… to train for races, or to stay in shape… and compare it to how I did when I was a child, and I realize it is really two sides of the same coin. When I get up in the morning and run, I feel just as free, just as enthusiastic as I did when I was a kid running around my neighborhood. The difference is I have added to it. Discipline, form, thought, nutrition. Some days it hurts, some days it is tough, but I keep running.
That is what God calls us to in our faith. Tap into that childlike enthusiasm, but do not be afraid of discipline and growth. To put the flailing behind you, but to not stop running.
Out with my dad on that first REAL run, I ran the entire three miles in a bit over 30 minutes, and my even though my dad was much faster than me then, he stayed with me, checking on me, keeping me going…