By Bethany Riehl
“Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will act.” (Psalm 37:5)
Last April I took a deep breath and clicked “submit” on a registration form to join a fundraising event that I’ve been wanting to participate in for five years: a grassroots, fully volunteer-run organization that sends 100% of its proceeds to children in India suffering with HIV/AIDS.
Amazing, right? What joy it is to be a small part of an organization like this. So why did it take me five years to click that submit button?
Because this particular fundraising opportunity involves running. A lot of running. Four half marathons in four weeks; a total of 52.4 miles, to be exact.
The problem is, I’m not a runner. I send my running friends silly memes about running. The last time I ran was when I participated in the Color Run over ten years ago. I distinctly remember that as I crossed the finish line and entered the fun cloud of colored powder being thrown at me I thought, “Welp. That was neat. But I see no reason to run any further than those three miles. Ever.”
So why on earth did I sign up to spend my summer training to run four half marathons in the fall?
These are the reasons I wrote down last April:
- Because I want the discipline of training my body to mirror the more important discipline of training my spirit and mind to do hard things.
- Because hard doesn’t equal bad.
- Because in a very small way this training can help provide for children who need food, shelter, and life-changing medicine, and while I train, I can do the important work of praying for them and their caretakers.
- Because why not me?
That last one is where I landed and what I come back to when a run is really difficult and I want to quit.
Why not me? I’m able-bodied (although my body has absolutely disagreed with that sentiment plenty over the last four months) and I’m willing (again, that’s had to be readjusted a few times).
In the beginning of this process, a few runners told me that this training would greatly mirror my spiritual walk. I couldn’t wait to see that. I was going to spend all of my time praying and be so spiritual, and (whispering) maybe lose some weight, too.
It took a while to see what they were talking about. In the beginning I would pause my music or podcast to try to pray and all that came out was, “I’m going to die. Am I even breathing?”
And I’ve gained weight instead of losing it. So. That’s fun.
But with daily obedience and setting out 3 times a week for the last 15 weeks, the Lord turned those desperate prayers for breath into real ones for the children. I learned that I don’t need to spend all of my time on a run praying or trying to be ultra-spiritual. A sweet friend reminded me that it’s enough to use that time to discipline my body since God is helping me to discipline my soul and mind in other ways. He is teaching me diligence and endurance and obedience bit by bit, body, mind, and soul in His way and in His timing.
No, I didn’t slim down, but He has reminded me to pray for the orphan and to be thankful for all that I have. And I have a lot.
On long runs when I grow hungry, thirsty, and weary, He reminds me that He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35), He provides living water to those that believe in Him (John 7:38), and He is my strength and my shield (Psalm 28:7).
And although I had to reevaluate my abilities and shift to a run/walk method for the 52.4 miles, He reminded me that His grace is sufficient, and His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Most of all, in His abundant grace, He also made me see how much of my life has been spent in luxury, especially compared to the children I run for. As my legs cramp, my lungs scream, and I think I can’t possibly take another step, the Lord reminds me that I have spent enough time worshipping my idol of self-comfort and it’s time to kill it. This is one way.
So why am I sharing all of this with you? After all, one of my favorite memes says, “Unless you fell off of the treadmill, no one wants to hear about your workout.”
First of all, I wanted to tell you about Fiftytwo.Four because they are truly an amazing organization and I hope you will check them out and pray about joining them next year. I borrowed this from their website:
Fiftytwo.four is a 501(c)3 community based non-profit organization. We operate solely on lots of amazing volunteers and donations…amazing people that simply want to use their lives to make a difference in the lives of a lot of beautiful children in India that need our help. 100% of the money that we raise is sent to the organization that we support in India. Our money is specifically designated for the endless needs of HIV/AIDS orphans…Some ways that our money has been used in the past…medical needs, nutritious foods, education costs, medicine, building costs for new HIV/AIDS facilities/orphanages, vehicles to transport the children.”
If you’re able, I also humbly ask that you consider donating to my run – or if you know another runner, to their run, it all goes to the same place – at www.fiftytwofour.org.
Mostly, my dear readers, I ask you to pray for me. For all of us that are participating. That we will endure for the rest of the training and safely make it to all four finish lines having done our best for the Lord and for these children.
Lastly, but most importantly, I ask you to pray for these children, that they would know God’s love and His gospel and that they would turn to Him in repentance and follow Him. That those who are caring for them will be encouraged and strengthened by His glorious might. And that He will return soon and make all of these crooked ways straight.
He is good, and He is able. We run (and walk) for His glory.
“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in Him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:16-18)
Bethany Riehl lives in the Treasure Valley with her husband, three kids, and one super chill dog. She writes articles and fictional novels when she can, and her one desire is to point others to the love and sufficiency of Jesus Christ.