Running towards rest - let me tell you.

You cannot run if you cannot rest.
— Rebekah Lyons

Since my first summer home during college, running has rapidly become a sort of refuge.  I like it because it gives me a focus point for leftover scraps of emotional energy that have built up throughout the day, an excuse to turn my music up loud and leave the rest of the world behind. It can relieve the tension and introduce other aches and pains to focus on.  It may even give me the steadiness I need to sort out my thoughts.  

But the thing about running is that it isn't real.

Running takes my energy, my time, my focus; but it doesn't actually take me anywhere. Eventually, I come to the end of my loop around the neighborhood and find myself back home.

Sometimes my house slams into view before I've even registered I'm ready for it, and it takes me by surprise.  But whether I was thinking of it or not, halfway through my circuit around the neighborhood, I stop running away and start running towards something.  It's an unconscious change of pace, but it still matters. 

I think this is true when life sends us running from certain circumstances as well.  Even if you know what you're trying to leave behind when you take off, do you know what you're running towards?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
— Hebrews 11:1

We live in a day and age where plenty of people (like me) run for the heck of it, run to get their minds off of things, run for the sake of exercise.  But since I've been a runner (in the absolute loosest sense of the word), I've learned that the best way to really commit yourself to the discipline is to set a goal.  

Usually, that goal is a race.

In a race, there's a clear goal that you're running toward.  You may be striving for your best time, you may contented with completion (hey, friend! Join my boat?) - but we are all running for that finish line.  

And when we run for the finish line, we are no longer running to escape something, we are all running to take hold of something greater.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.
— Hebrews 12:1-2

There's a reason Paul compares the Christian walk to running a race, and there's a reason he places Jesus as our point of focus on the finish line.  When we take up our cross and follow Jesus, we know what we're running towards.  But what does that race look like during our time on earth?  Because eternity is not the only thing we should be striving for.

It's not perfection, it's not completion, and it's not even to find our calling.  These are things that are beyond us; they are the work that Christ has already done to equip us for the race itself.  No, the finish line we are running towards is to be ever made more like Christ.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
— Hebrews 10:14

The goal of our lives is not to be the best version of ourselves, because God has more for us than our definition of best.  The goal of our lives is not to do it all right all the time, because the expectation of the Law was overturned by His work on the cross.  

The goal of our lives is to be made holyconformed to the image of the Son, in every situation and circumstance.  

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
— Romans 8:29

It's tricky to see because the world has ingrained everything we do with such a drastically different purpose.  But running doesn't necessarily produce real change unless you make it real.

And the only way to run towards that goal, to run with purpose, to run a race that's real, is to run towards a deeper knowledge of the One plotting our course and strengthening our stride.

And the only way to know Him deeply, is to rest.

Rebekah Lyons is one of my FAVORITE authors & speakers.  Check out her Rhythm of Grace study here for more on running & rest.