The Discipline of Showing Up

I ran a marathon in 2005. I did not run again for almost 7 years. That’s not completely true. I did run here and there, just not with any sort of consistency. There were lots of good reasons for the slump. After the marathon, I had jaw surgery. We had some big house projects, I completed seminary, and I worked full time. I also had two children, getting pregnant with the first only a few months after the marathon.

Life got busy and finding space to run was difficult.

I told other people that I was burnt out. That training for a marathon was so incredibly time consuming, and that I put on so many miles, that it killed my desire to do it again for awhile.

That was true for a time. But not for seven years.

The truth is, as time went on, running became scarier. Because I knew that the more time it had been since my last run, the more baby weight I gained, and the more years my body aged, the more difficult running would be.

I didn’t want to do it if I couldn’t be successful. I didn’t want to be humbled by my own huffing and puffing.

But for the last few months, I’ve been doing it. I’ve only kept up the rhythm of about two runs a week, when I was hoping for twice that often. I’ve only run about 2 miles each time, when my “easy” runs used to be twice that length. And my pace? I cringe when I hear Runkeeper tells me my mile split.

These days, running is both infuriating and invigorating. Though I feel humbled by what used to be, I feel strong for what is.

Because I am maintaining the discipline of showing up. And the more I show up, the stronger I become.

I was thinking this morning as I ran about a little verse in 1 Timothy.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. – 1 Timothy 4:8

A lot of me doesn’t like this verse. I prefer to think about my faith in organic terms. I like to talk about my relationship with God, the way He brings peace to my soul and grace to my daily living.

Training is not an organic term. It sounds so regimented and cold. Training takes discipline. That seems so unloving.

Yet when I think about the discipline of running, I wonder if that is true. Because, in the end, it is my relationship to my body that motivates me to run. If I didn’t care about its health, I wouldn’t get out of bed.

Relationship compels discipline.

And I think with training ourselves in godliness, that means the discipline of showing up.

Showing up to read the Bible on a regular basis, even if what we study makes us feel more frustrated than inspired. Showing up to serve, even if there isn’t something that is the exact right fit for our gifts and passions. Showing up to pray, even if we don’t hear God speaking to us in return. Showing up to give, even if the cause doesn’t provide us instant gratification.

The discipline of showing up is humbling. And frustrating. But just as it is good for our bodies, it is good for our souls.

Let me clarify. I don’t think a healthy spiritual life looks like a begrudging commitment that fulfills an obligation but drains our souls.

But, I also think our desire to be successful or feel uplifted every time we engage in a spiritual practice can keep us from doing the important work of just showing up.

So, I encourage you (And me. I promise, I need this encouragement too.) to show up for spiritual training. Our love for God should compel us to have discipline.

Need some ideas of where to start? Check out the Resources section of this blog. In particular, I recommend the Prompt Cards for spending time with God.

What practices do you engage with on a regular basis that help you grow in your faith?