Summer always brings a much needed, much appreciated change in my exercise routine. Throughout the cold Michigan winters, I do my best to keep in shape using my stationary bike and a couple of hand weights. At the onset of winter my commitment is to exercise at least three times a week, riding for a minimum of three miles each time, and doing a few dozen arm lifts with the weights.
However, by spring, just when I can no longer fathom riding the bike in the basement and am ready to throw the weights in the garbage, I am able to head to the local track and put in the same three miles with a whole new enthusiasm and vigor. This summer, turning 49 also brought some new exercise commitments that I wanted to make. I decided that at least two of the twelve laps should be at a jog, albeit a slow one, as I am not going to enter my fifties without a fight.
So, this past week, with the wind in my hair, water bottle at the sideline, and sweat dripping down my face, I gave it the old college try. I walked three laps and decided the inside, and smaller lap, would be the one I would jog. Then, I would walk three more of the outside laps and jog the fourth, inside lap again. Finally, I would enter the third mile and simply walk all four laps. Great plan. At least it was a great plan until I actually started jogging. And then the plan seemed ludicrous. I see people do it all the time and yet couldn't believe how difficult it really was. But, being a creature of guidelines, I did all I could to finish jogging that first lap that ended the first mile on the track. As I began walking the second mile I was already worried about the second lap that was on my agenda. Would I ever be able to accomplish it? Should I forsake it and be happy that I completed one single lap of jogging without any neighboring home having to call an ambulance? I spent the next three laps walking and weighing the pros and cons of what was before me. Then, as I approached what would be my place to start jogging, I did just that: I jogged.
It was painful as muscles ached and shin splints formed but somewhere deep inside me, I knew I wanted to be true to the commitment I had made when I began. I didn't want to let go of my hopes and dreams to jog two measly laps a few times a week. I wanted to persevere. Then, just as the finish marker was in sight and I really didn't think I could make it all the way, two things happened. First, the sprinklers kicked on and sprayed me with enough cold water to cool me down and invigorate me. Second, but infinitely more significant, Hebrews 12:1 came to mind: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.
In what was for me an epiphany, those words became clearer than ever. As a baptized believer in Christ, I was in a race. My relationship with Him wasn't a one-time commitment with life and all its pieces falling neatly into place. I made a commitment to Him but needed to diligently pursue that commitment. Every day I was called to rededicate myself to Jesus. Every day I needed to know He was at my side, coaxing me along when things seemed more than I could handle. Every day He was willing, maybe even hopeful, to hear my gratitude for things that are beautiful and wonderful in my life. Every day He waited until I invited Him to be part of all the details. And through it all He was committed to me as I ran my own personal race; my earthly journey.
As Catholics, we have many things that help us finish the race that is before us. Our job is to keep our eye on the finish line, eternity with Christ, and never to abandon that hope. We have the sacraments and the fullness of the faith to help us as we do our best to accept God's graces and glorify His kingdom. Just when we are at a point where we feel most defeated, most apt to give up, the Holy Spirit will, just like the sprinklers, kick on and refresh us. God, in His infinite mercy, will provide us a means to persevere to the end, to reach the finish line. It is completely up to us, however, if we embrace all that God offers as we finish the race set before us.
God bless you on your journey.