It has been a few months since I have written, and I apologize to my school family. Something interesting happened the last six months: grad school. All of my writing and reading time, which used to be at my personal disposal was now dictated by professors. It had been a while since I was in formal schooling, and it was quite the shock to my system. Anyway, I am glad for summer and some time to get back into my own routines of reading and writing. Before too long, fall will be here – back to grad school and the arrival of the twins. (My wife and I are in deep discussions on names, suggestions welcomed in the comments!) I can’t guarantee too much writing then, but I'll do my best!
At the end of May, I ran my first marathon, the Buffalo Marathon. It was the culmination of about a fifteen month journey of becoming a running junkie (addict?). Distance running has really become a source of joy and relaxation for me. I know, I know – most of you think I'm crazy. But for a few of you, this makes total sense. There is the peacefulness of finding a good pace that creates some space for reflection, worship, and even deep community when running with friends. And there is nothing like the good tired that comes after a long train run. And I've got to say, there is nothing like crossing the finish line on a landmark race. (more on that later.)
A quick word of warning for those of you thinking about becoming a distance runner, it's not cheap. I actually thought it would be – all you do is run right? But when you run through three pairs of running shoes in one year, pay for race registrations, get the right breathable clothing and running gear, it becomes a big investment! It's still cheaper than a lot of hobbies, but be warned!
There are many, many lessons learned from training and running a marathon. In fact, the Bible uses the metaphor of running a race, and many Christians have made, and wrote about, the spiritual connections and biblical applications of distance running. I'll spare you of recounting them all, I'll stick to just one.
My biggest lesson: you can’t run alone.
Well, actually, lots of people train and run alone. But I couldn't. I don't think I would have had the motivation, and I physically also needed the support. I train with the Moor Ponies, (pictured here with our support poster from the BCS students) our small collection of BCS alum and staff who enjoy running. (Anyone is welcome to join us!) I rely on my running friends to help me keep going, to get out of bed, and hit the trails or hit the road. I count on them to encourage me when I'm not feeling great, to keep pace, and help me reach my goals. They sharpen my skills with healthy competition, encouraging words, and smart council. We keep each other accountable, and it is the companionship that really makes running enjoyable, not the actual running.
It was a tough race for me, really pushing me to my limits. But mile 19 is where it all went downhill. (well not literally, it was actually a slight incline) I had been struggling for a few miles to keep up, but my teammates did not leave me. Every mile or so, we would take a few seconds of walking as a break before we started running again. I yelled ahead that I needed one of these breaks and started walking. I was mentally and physically exhausted and thought, “I don't think I can start running again.” And then, my legs just buckled. I stumbled and fell. Trying to get up, I realized two of my teammates were already by my side lifting me up. I had one arm around one teammates shoulder, and a duplicate on the other side. They asked me if I could walk, I could. We started moving forward. One teammate yelled if anyone had food. A fellow marathoner pulled up along side. “Here, eat this. It's homemade honey cookie. Chew the whole thing, you'll feel better soon. Keep going.” And she was off. My teammate yelled for water. A spectator ran into her house, and came back with water. She didn't need the cup back. My teammates carried me for about a half mile.
Miraculously, my strength returned and I was able to start running again. With much support from my team, and some help from some fellow running community members, I finished the race. Friends, this is the Christian life. Following Christ is difficult and many do not even get out on the race course because it is too hard. But the few of us who understand the payoff strain and strive and undertake the journey. God equips us to run well, and one of the key gifts he gives us is the family of God. We are blessed with a running team of brothers and sisters in Christ who are there beside us, running the same difficult path.
My BCS family, we can't run alone. We need each other. Sometimes it is just to tell each other to keep going, sometimes it is to help each other to keep pace, and sometimes it is just for the companionship on the journey. And sometimes, we literally need each other to pick us up after a fall and carry us. It is not enough to talk about community, we must do it! As we each go our own ways over the summer, I hope we will all be intentional about continuing to engage in Christian community. And as we regather in the fall, I hope that we will all be fully committed to running this race together. It is one of the key ways we train our children in discipleship and show the world the power of the gospel of Jesus.
Update on Compassion International
THANK YOU to all of our families who come together to support our friends around the globe through Compassion International. Our last dress down day brought in $524.21 which included a gift from one of our alumni. This covers all of our summer expenses and will give us a strong start for next year. It is a simple but powerful example of what we can accomplish when we choose to run together as the family of God. To learn more about our compassion International program http://berkschristian.weebly.com/compassion-international.html
Philip S. Warner, administrator of Berks Christian School.