Hills. To a runner or a bicyclist or any endurance athlete, the mere mention of the slightest incline is met with disdain. Tracy and I have taken up running/training as part of our efforts to get healthy this year. I am running with our pup, almost every morning about 2-3 miles or more. This running has given me a new perspective about hills.
An incline, during any portion of your run, is difficult. You expend more energy to keep your pace going up even the slightest incline than you would on flat land. More energy and effort, the more tired you are bound to be at or near the end of your run. Hills can be trouble going downhill as well. You quicken your pace, you're running and expend more energy and effort without knowing it. Downhill can lead you to be just as tired as going up. One last thing about running downhill, what goes down must come back up.
When I began my running this summer, I learned to dread hills. It felt like they were put there to make my lungs and legs burn. (Yes, I admit my lungs and legs burning was more because of the shape I was in, not the hill.) Some days, I hated the hills I ran and would let the hill win by walking up them. My disdain grew and grew as I ran these hills over and over.
My epiphany came when I was getting advice from a more experienced runner. I had mentioned how I had grown to hate hills. He laughed and quickly corrected my outlook on hills. He told me hills were like medicine. No one likes medicine, but when you are sick, you take it anyway. In training for running, no one likes hills but you run them anyway. Why? They make the flat sections of your run easier and faster. This changed my attitude about hills and training and I no longer tried to avoid them. On my longer runs, I would seek them out. They were making me stronger and a better runner.
Our congregation is experiencing some hills. Changes in how we do Christian Education, reaching out to new families, and the changing demographic of who in our communities goes to church are a few of those esoteric hills. Right now, we might dread tackling these issues and "running up" these hills. Most likely, there will be some discomfort. We will need to expend more effort as a congregation to keep our "pace" within the community. Lastly, it feels as if there is no end to the hill we are on.
Let's embrace these and other hills. Taking them on as if they are medicine for our congregation. Ultimately, once we take on these hills we will be a stronger congregation for it. So when we reach the "flat" parts of our journey, we will be a beacon to our community.
As for my training, I ran my first 5k race, the Popcorn Panic, last Saturday. That experienced runner was right, the flat parts were easier. In fact, the hills on the course were a little more tolerable because I had not shied away from the hills in my training. I finished my first race without walking any part of it and did it in a respectable time. I know God will bless our congregation the same way when we take on these hills together.
Praise the Lord and God bless!