Over these past few months, a few of my friends have called me crazy, insane, and ridiculous. They have also questioned my sanity (cough, you know who you are Rencia, cough).
Why have they done these things, you ask?
Because I started trail running.
I don’t blame them, it is pretty crazy, but I absolutely love it. I love being able to wind my way through the flowers, the rocks, and the shrubbery as a sweet South African breeze accompanies me down a single track. I love hearing the birds chirp above me and the creek flowing beside me as I weave my way through the trees next to the Coetzenburg fields. Because for me, running is a breath of fresh air. It clears my head and it calms my spirit.
Not to mention, the races I attend provide me with a great opportunity to bond with all of the other “crazy and insane people” who plan on running beside me.
To be honest, I think I love those people more than I love the running itself. Every single one of my fellow runners is different from the other. They break the typical “runner’s mold” when it comes to stereotypes, and they bring a whole lot of excitement and laughter to the starting line. Each runner has a unique story to be told filled with varying amounts of hope, joy, pain, and trial. I have already learned so many things from these incredible and inspirational men and women… and my running journey has only just begun.
I used to think that being a “good and successful runner” meant that you were fast, you wore Nike’s, and your body was as skinny as a rail (I don’t know about you, but I have thunder thighs thanks to playing soccer and my mom and dad’s genetics). I used to think that you had to receive a medal every time you crossed the finish line, and that you had to get a “personal best” after each run. In year’s past, I was always too focused on “me and my race” to even notice the amazing people around me. I wanted to be good enough, fast enough, and fit enough, but I was missing the purpose of why I loved running in the first place.
We all run for different reasons and we all run at different paces. We sprint with different strides and we breathe in different rhythms. We represent different ages and we speak many different languages. Some of us compete against each other, while others compete against themselves. Some of us talk while we run, and some of us are too busy just trying to breathe so we don’t pass out in the middle of nowhere. But we all run the race with the same goal of finishing (and we run the race together). And honestly, I think that’s beautiful.
I realized that my success as a runner, as a human being, and as a Christian isn’t dependent on how well I perform. Similar to my running ideology, I used to think that to be a “good missionary,” I had to perform exceptionally well to win the approval of God and those around me. I thought that I needed to attend hundreds of outreaches, have most of the bible memorized, and get a whole bunch of people “saved.” I thought that I needed to be better, work harder, and pray longer than those around me, but again I was missing the point.
Deep down, all I really craved from God and from people was recognition (both as a Christian and as an athlete). I wanted to be noticed and I wanted to be seen and loved as a person of value. But God reminded me that I am loved and valued not because of what I do, but because of who I am. I am loved for being “His Sam” (no questions asked). So whether I come in first place or last place, or whether I pray for hours or pray for seconds, I am loved. I don’t need a medal, an award, or a certificate to prove my worth. My value isn’t something that needs to be earned, it is something that is bestowed, and that takes all of the pressure off of me to “do well.” This means that I am totally and completely free, and because of that freedom, I get to experience the abundant joy of living as a Daughter of the King.
Oswald Chambers said in My Utmost For His Highest, “The true test of a saint’s life is not successfulness but faithfulness on the human level of life. We tend to set up success in Christian work as our purpose, but our purpose should be to display the glory of God in human life, to live a life “hidden with Christ in God” in our everyday human condition.”
I don’t want others to see Christ in me only when I’m at church or only when I am on the streets spending time with women in prostitution. I want people to see Christ in me all the time. This means that His light should shine through me while I am: running on a trail up in the mountains, drinking a beer while I watch a rugby match, speaking to high school kids about human trafficking, playing video games with my little brother, or kicking some serious booty on the soccer field. Colossians 3:17 (the MSG) says, “Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way.”
So, to sum it all up…
I no longer run to prove my worth (and it’s the greatest feeling in the world!). I run to bring glory to God both in life and on the trails. He gave me two healthy and muscular legs, and I want to use them to their greatest potential before it’s too late. My goal now is for others to see and to know the grace and forgiveness and love and mercy of Christ through my actions and words in everything I do. He is the reason why I wake up with a smile on my face, and He is the reason why I run through the mountains with joy in my heart and peace in my soul.
So, I’d like to end with a quick shout out to all of my fellow running friends:
Thank you guys for being 100% you, for not compromising who you are, and for being brave enough to step out onto the starting line. Thank you for teaching me that there is beauty and strength in diversity. Thank you for welcoming me in as a part of your family, and for sharing your stories and your struggles with me. You all have inspired me and motivated me to tell my own story and to use it for the benefit of others. I am beyond blessed to know you and to run beside you. See you at the next race!