I hate hills. I mean, I really hate hills. During collegiate athletics we used to have a hill that we had to run repetitions of that we referred to it as “that dang hill” or abbreviated as TDH. I really can’t think of a more simple sentiment that describes my loathing of hills then that statement. My race this weekend had two ridiculously brutal evil hills. I wasn’t prepared for them, wasn’t expecting them, and to be honest was absolutely irritated by the fact that I would have to run up them to finish. I prefer flat and even courses and usually avoid registering for any races with known hills.
As I was slowly inching up the second hill about .6 miles away from the finish line I really really really wanted to quit. I mean literally stop, sit, lay on the pavement– anything but run up the dang thing!
One thing I’ve learned, and often have to remind myself of is this: when you start running a course (whether race day or just training) you can’t “just quit.” Quitting isn’t an option. You may very well crave with every inch of your fatigued body giving up, but you can’t just stop. Regardless of your feelings, the fact that you’ve started the course means you have made an intentional decision to arrive at a particular destination.
To quit one must decidedly and literally choose to run back to the start. I think it’s pretty obvious that would be foolish and illogical. I mean– can you imagine? In order to avoid the pain of trudging up a brutal hill actually turning around and running the opposite direction would be ludicrous.
Yet, I think in the Christian walk when facing life battles, struggles with sin, hangups, etc we often adapt this attitude of frustration with our “hills.” At least I do. I regularly toss my hands up to God and shout in annoyance, “I quit! I can’t do this!” I too quickly lose my resolve to run through trials and hardships.
Angrily I consider my two options. Move uphill one step at a time towards the finish line– or turn around and head back towards the start. There have been a few times in my life where mentally I am convinced I’d actually rather run backwards. Somehow the backward path that I am familiar with seems less painful then the unknown exhaustion the hill scenario ahead presents.
I foolishly choose to run backwards. As I begin I encounter the face of runner after runner…. hundreds of them. Some are smiling as they glide through the course; others are red in the face, grimacing and barely moving. Some run with a handicapped limp as though they are partially injured. Some look physically fit, as though they’ve been running everyday for years! Many run with great enthusiasm, but, their running form is a clear indicator that they are new racers! The only thing they all have in common is the direction in which they are running. Regardless of their weight, size, gender, or age…hundreds of fellow runners continuing to put one foot in front of the other, continuing to run towards the finish.
Suddenly my rebellious trek backwards isn’t nearly as wise as it seemed minutes earlier. It gets a bit clearer as my fellow runners begin to shout in unison, “wrong way!”
We don’t run this race alone and I have clearly seen in my life when I begin to run backwards that God uses my fellow racers to help turn me around. It doesn’t take long for me to figure out that quitting (running back towards the start line) is actually much more painful, humiliating, destructive and senseless then preserving forward.
The Christian life is unfortuanelty full of hills. The unavoidable truth is I must learn to run up them. I don’t have to like the hills. I don’t have to attack them with brute strength. I don’t have to be the fastest hill runner! But, I must be willing to scale them with God’s help!
I am learning to recognize that one foot in front of the other slowly trudging uphill is always wiser then any steps in the opposite direction. So run, I will! Even up that TDH.