Editor’s note: To help Christian sportspeople navigate these uncertain times, we will be publishing a series of posts focused on what it looks like to “Run The Race Well” in a time of coronavirus and quarantine. We will be getting contributions from a variety of perspectives: theologians, philosophers, athletes, coaches, mental health professionals, seminary students, and more. This post comes from up-and-coming Christian author and speaker Danté Stewart.
Not too long ago I was talking to my mom and was reminded of running track back in the day. I was a long distance runner, and she had a habit of yelling “You’re running TOO FAST!!” I thought she was crazy then, but I get it now. She was trying to teach me: you always have to be mindful of the pace that you’re running at given the race.
Any runner knows that setting and maintaining the right pace is not easy. It requires good form, fitness, and focus. That’s not just true in our physical lives but also spiritually. We travel through the spiritual life at the pace of our prayer, our praise, and our perspective. As with the athlete, in order for us to run this life of faith well, we must slow down enough to spend time with God, reflect deeply on what God has done, and refocus our vision. I haven’t seen many people travel in a calm and deliberate way when their pace is hurried.
On the other hand, no one can run a race well if they’re brought to a stop. For many of us, life has done just that. As we deal with the challenge of a global pandemic, spaces that long brought social structure and joy—social clubs, religious services, and sporting events—have been put on pause. One thing the experts agree on is that no one knows the trajectory that COVID-19 will take in the coming days.
Life as we know it has changed.
But while our health officials and experts have encouraged us to limit physical interaction—and rightfully so—I want to encourage us to not blind ourselves to the meaning that can be made in this moment. We may be limited in our ability to showcase our talents on the field, the track, or the court, but we can still invest in our crafts.
In this moment of slowing down, let’s make the most of it by living wisely at a distance. Let’s use this time to renew ourselves physically, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. Those of us in the sports world know the love of the grind—early mornings, long days, and late nights to put ourselves in the best position to win—but too often we fail to realize the love of renewal. This means doing things that you enjoy. It means replenishing the love tank: the love of God and the love of life. Pay close attention to what you are putting into yourself, in food and in content, so that this moment of pause will propel you into the moment of play on the other side.
You must not simply renew yourself but also take this time to recall what God has done and use that as motivation in the moment. When life is given a pause—whether of our choosing or not—it’s very easy to lose sight of God’s reality and God’s work. Too often, it seems, the God of the good season fails to show up when life casts its depressing shadow.
I’m not unaware, too, that for those whose lives are often judged by our level of production, yearning for a distant God can be a familiar reality. To not feel “productive” in any moment can bring feelings of doubt, discouragement, and most of all devaluement. In those moments, it’s imperative for us to remember, as Fred Rogers was fond of saying, that God loves us “just as we are” and that God doesn’t harp on our production as much as God pushes us to our purpose.
Lastly, allow this time to move you to refocus on what really matters. What really matters in this moment is that we learn how to live wisely and that we become better in the process.
While reflecting on life, the philosopher in Ecclesiastes writes of learning why some people want success so bad. People want success because “they envy the things their neighbors have.” It seems foolish to these people to pause in life—nothing productive comes from pause. But the philosopher keenly writes, “it is better to have only a little, with a peace of mind, than to be busy all the time” (Eccl. 4). Don’t ever forget that. Life is not made to be busy but to bring joy. It’s a pursuit of doing the right things in the right way to bring about the most good for the most people.
The fictional track coach in Jason Reynolds’ novel Ghost puts it another way: “You can’t run away from who you are, but what you can do is run toward who you want to be.”
You have a chance at this moment to run as well.
Just make sure that you do what my momma told me: pace yourself.
About the author: Danté Stewart is a writer and speaker whose works have been featured on Christianity Today, The Witness: A Black Christian Collective, Fathom Magazine, Faithfully Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, and Radical. As an up and coming voice, he contributes in the areas of black religion and theology, history, writing, and ministry and serves as a mentor to young leaders in his local area. He received his B.A. in Sociology from Clemson University where he also was a student athlete. He is currently pursuing his Masters of Arts in Religion at Reformed Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Ga. He and his wife Jasamine live in Augusta, Ga. with their one year old son, Asa. Find out more and connect with him at his website.