I Get To!
So, I’ve learned a couple things on my running journey over the last 9 months.
First, I like to talk about what I get excited about – which, sadly, includes running right now.
Second, people’s eyes roll up in their heads when I start talking about running, much like mine used to.
So, at the risk of losing some of you, I want to encourage you with a principle that has helped me out – the power of “I get to.”
A former student of mine posted about her best marathon time and was raving about the coaching she received from Jen and Bob over at Running Niche in The Grove. She was going on about some famous coach named Lydiard and his philosophy “running slower to run faster.”
That sounded like my kind of philosophy. So, I decided to check it out in a zoom call (of course) hosted by Jen and Bob and really liked what I heard. Even though I had already purchased my running shoes locally (from Runwell), they drew up a marathon training plan for me and now coach me on my progress for a small donation to the non-profit Lydiard Foundation.
I’ve really been thankful for their help and guidance!
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Running is hard work, and increasing endurance and speed come through growing exertion by pushing yourself into the growth zone of discomfort. Starting (like I did) from a place of almost complete ignorance and zero experience, things like fartleks, hill training, and interval training sounded super intimidating and I would find myself dreading them before I had even tried them.
A couple months ago I was over in St. Louis and decided to stop by the running store to introduce myself in person to Jen and Bob. As I was there, I overheard Jen talking with one of the other runners they were coaching. The runner was smiling and talking about some advice Jen had given him.
At some point, he had told Jen how he dreaded hill training, and she had said to him, “Well, you have to be in the right mindset. You don’t have to do hills. You get to do hills.”
“That advice,” he told her, “has made all the difference.”
And I remember overhearing this conversation and thinking, “Seriously? Could it be that simple?”
So, I’ve tried it – and not just with running. I’ve tried it with a number of things that I dread because I know they will be hard and push me out of my comfort zone.
I don’t have to run, “I get to.”
I don’t have to write a difficult sermon, “I get to.”
I don’t have to have a challenging conversation that may go sideways, “I get to.”
I don’t have to repair that thing that inconveniently broke, “I get to.”
I don’t have to attend Community Group (after a long day of things going wrong or sapping my energy), “I get to.”
I don’t have to sit with my kids during worship service, “I get to.”
I don’t have to serve that person at that inconvenient time, “I get to.”
I know this sounds very “self-help-ish” and suspiciously like “the power of positive thinking.” But there is power in positive thinking – especially when the positivity is rooted in gratitude for God’s grace and is stretching for the generosity of love.
For me, the exercise has become a shorthand reminder to place the current challenge in the broader context of God’s overwhelming blessings. Yes, the challenge ahead of me may be unpleasant or hard, but it is God’s grace that has brought me to this point and will sustain me through it.
This shift of focus allows me to see people instead of problems as I engage difficult and even painful exchanges. It equips me to engage gratitude as I push into the discomfort of growth. It keeps me focused on the blessing on the other side of the challenge.
It’s amazing how such a small shift in focus can have such a profound impact on experience. As we tap into God’s loving grace, we find ourselves re-energized in the face of fatigue, encouraged in the experience of discouragement, and able to love those whom we are tempted to resent, fear, or dismiss.