Running for the Prize: “How Badly Do You Want This?”

running1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

How Badly Do You Want This?

In high school, running was my life. No other love could compete with my love of running and my love for my team. It would go cross country, indoor track, outdoor track, and back to training for cross country over the summer. While some people may cringe, running camp was heaven for me (besides wishing my entire team was there). It was a world centered around running for an entire week. If it was an option, that would probably have been how I would choose to live. Back then, I ran simply because I loved running. It wasn’t about the PRs (personal records) or the medals; it was about running and those things just followed as I gave my all to what I loved. It was fun. I had a team that loved me and that loved running. It was challenging. Everyday posed the question of “How badly do you want this?” It was badly enough to give my everything to running. It was a major defining point of who I was because that’s where my heart was. I loved running and I loved my team.

This morning, God posed the same question: “How badly do you want me?” What he said next struck me:“You didn’t run hard to love running-You loved running and so you ran hard.”

I remember my passion for running and how it disappeared by the end of my junior year. What I had never realized was why. I lost my passion for running because I took the focus off of running and put it onto myself. I no longer placed an intrinsic value on running, but made its value something I had to earn by getting those PRs and those medals. It was all about how much better I could be. When you run hard to love running, you make running about you. You get absorbed with yourself and your love of running is lost. You slow down. You lose that passion. You get frustrated. This is what happens to any passion when we try to love while focusing on ourselves, including our passion for God.

While losing my passion for running (which had become an idol in my life) was hard, it helped prepare me to accept Jesus into my life and make him my everything. It is teaching me even now. Recently, God has been teaching me to love running in it of itself again as I train for a marathon. It’s not about the distance I run or how fast I run; it’s simply about running. In the same way, God is showing me that living for him has nothing to do with myself or “how well” I can love him. It’s not about how hard we work, but the heart we have.

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with the show House. It always makes me sad when I see the patients hooked up on life support as I think, ”A life like that isn’t worth living.” This morning I was reminded of one of my Jesus-loving friends saying that living for herself wasn’t enough. This morning I realized that I was that patient hooked up to the life support, living a life centered around self. For awhile now I’ve been chasing after sanctification, after being a better person; I’ve been chasing after the wrong prize, and it’s not living in the fullness that Christ has offered us. At the same time, I’ve been telling God that all I want is that first love, while my heart has been pursuing this idealized version of myself that I’ve made into an idol. Again, God asked me, “How badly do you want this? How badly do you want that first love?” I’ve turned loving God into a quest for perfection, and that’s not at all what it is. It’s about chasing after God and surrendering our whole heart.

I’m reminded of how I gave my everything to running, and had to ask myself if I was doing the same for Jesus, or if my heart was in the wrong place. Am I living a life centered around God? Am I allowing my love of God to define who I am, or am I searching for my identity somewhere else? The truth is that my quest to “fix myself” is a rejection of the sacrifice that Jesus made for me on the cross. God’s love for us is unconditional and me trying to earn it is shifting the focus from God to myself. Trying to love God and live for Him while focusing on myself only leads me to live for self and keep my heart from the only one worthy of it. This morning I’ve set my eyes on God as he teaches me how to surrender it all and chase after Him again. The question I’ll end with is are you chasing after God or are you racing for the wrong prize?

How badly do you want this?

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Mission Move-In: How a S’more Led to My Salvation

S’mores. A delicious treat for a pyromaniac like me, and what’s better? Free s’mores. It was my first week at Virginia Tech and I had just moved into my dorm.  Like every other college student, I was drawn to the promise of free food, so when the girls across the hall asked my roommate and I to go to a s’mores event the answer was yes. When we stepped out of Newman Hall we simply followed the mass exodus of hungry freshmen headed towards the Virginia Tech Chi Alpha House.

After waiting in a line that stretched down the street, we reached the tablets where we would enter our information to get in. Fake email, fake phone number, an orange VTXA bracelet, and I was in. The backyard of the Chi Alpha house was packed as we arrived.  

 

While you would think the s’mores would be a memorable part of my night, I’m not even sure if I had one. Probably though, right? Regardless, what I remember most about that night was how four strangers came up to talk to me about Jesus and the curiosity I left with. Specifically, I remember one girl: Kara. I don’t remember what we talked about, what struck me was how happy she was and how passionate she was about telling me about Jesus, even after I told her I was a christian. All of the people who came up to me kept going on about a personal relationship with God and I honestly had no idea what they were talking about. I told them I believed in Jesus Christ…I was covered, I thought, but as I left I had this nagging feeling that they knew something I didn’t. I wanted to figure out what it was.

I left that night and told my friends how these crazy, super nice christian people wouldn’t leave me alone when all I wanted was free food. It was enough to make me google the Chi Alpha  website and check out this “life group” thing they had told me about. I emailed asking when and where Kara’s life group was meeting and there I was: Monday at 7 PM at this picnic table with a bunch of strangers in front of Pritchard Hall to talk about Jesus.

On the last day of my freshmen year  I sat at the Duck Pond trying to grasp what all had happened in the past year. I thought of the first Ignite I went to when I first felt the presence of God, that moment at Fall Retreat when Pete had asked for anyone who wanted to be all in for Christ to raise their hand and mine involuntarily slipped up, and when I was baptized in the lake. I remember when my life group became family and when my ministry became family.  I remember running with a friend who had gone to the s’mores event and telling her about what Jesus had done in my life only to realize I was now that person randomly telling people about Jesus, and I was glad about it. I remember when I got it. When I understood that God wants a personal relationship with each one of us and how blessed I am.

I left my freshmen year at Tech a completely different person than I came in as. Thinking back on all that has happened in the past year and all the ways God has moved in my life, I realize how it all started…

With a s’more.

 

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