If you’ve heard some of my sermons since I arrived at St. Mark’s, you might know that running is one of my hobbies. When we first moved to Emerald I had the strange experience that running suddenly seemed a lot harder. I struggled and puffed when running half the distance that I would normally run easily. I first thought that it might be to do with the thinner air up here in the hills, but we’re not really that higher up, such that it would make a difference. Of course, the answer is that there are just many more hills around here that I am used to, and running uphill is hard. That is a change I need to get used to over time.
One of the challenges in following Jesus is when we go through changes in our lives and enter into seasons where things are new. Things like – getting married, having children, moving to a new job, starting or finishing study, retiring, or going through a period of sickness or grief. Everything suddenly seems much harder, including the habits of spiritual growth that we have developed over the years. But it can help to see this as a training opportunity, to ‘run uphill’ for a while, slowly and surely, until we get more fit and strong than we were before. For instance, becoming a parent made life a lot busier for me, but I’ve learnt a lot about patience and grace that I wouldn’t have otherwise. In those seasons, Jesus is a good running partner – he encourages us to grow and stretch but doesn’t push us beyond our limits. Soon things that seemed impossible will seem easy with him.