Here’s something runners know that I have recently come to know too: Consistency matters.
When it comes to running, consistency has never been my forte. Before my trainer-friend got ahold of me, I’d run when I felt like it. My progress was spotty because my running was spotty. It took me more than a year to run a mile, and even then I was never sure if I could do it again.
Now, I run three days a week because my trainer-friend makes me. (Accountability is a good thing.) Twice a week I run with the training group and once a week I run on my own. The other week I ran two miles. Twice. And that’s the amazing part. Not that I did it, but that I did it more than once. And as one of our running mentors shouted out the first mile, I thought “A mile is easy now.” The amazing part to me is not so much that I can run a mile; it’s that I know I could do it again.
At a recent group run, my trainer-friend admonished us to not give up on our solo runs. “Even if you can only get out the door for 10 minutes,” she said, “make sure you do it. That extra day of running will make your long runs more manageable and your short runs feel awesome.”
Awesome. I don’t know about you, but I like to feel awesome. And I find her words to be true. I have made more progress in 5 weeks of consistent effort than I did in more than a year of inconsistency. Which says a lot for the power of consistency.
When I think of habits, I often think of bad ones. But habits can also be good. They can be pillars in our life that give us structure, forward momentum, hope. And when our lives get turned upside down, it is the strength of our habits that give us footholds to find our way back.
The question I need to ask myself is what habits do I want guiding my life? And if one of those habits is my relationship with God, what am I doing about it right now? How consistent am I in reading my Bible, journaling, spending time in prayer, sitting quietly, attending Bible studies, attending church services… No, there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all of it all of the time, but there is always enough time to do some of it consistently. We need to take one small step and commit to it. A weekly meeting, a weekly reading, a weekly teaching scheduled into our routine. We need to establish a level of accountability – a trainer-friend to ask if we’re following our schedule or a small group that meets regularly.
I’ve come to learn that it doesn’t matter how fast or how hard or how far I run on any given day. Most days it’s not very far, and it’s definitely not very fast. What matters is that I get up and do it. And then I do it again.
The same is true for our relationship with God. It’s not enough for us to meet with Him sporadically. Pray without ceasing, Paul wrote (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Do not give up meeting together, Hebrews says (10:25). Like a runner’s endurance, relationships grow slowly, over time. And like consistent running, consistently meeting with God prepares us for the race ahead. Indeed, consistency in our relationship with God makes the hard stretches of life’s run more manageable, and the good stretches feel downright awesome.
Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:30-31).