There’s a local trail runner that I both love seeing and hate seeing when I am out running trails. I love seeing him because he really is an incredible athlete and he always has something positive and encouraging to say out on the trails. I hate seeing him because he runs like a gazelle or an antelope or a mountain goat. Nothing like the furry ape I feel like most of the time as I am lumbering up and down the trails. I love watching him from afar because he looks so fluid, as if every appendage and muscle are working in concert with each other. It reminds me a lot of when I was young and my mom took me to see The Nutcracker. I was amazed at the body control the ballerinas and ballerina dudes (what are they called?) had and how they made each move look so effortless. That is what this guy runs like and what the elites of my chosen sport look like when you watch Youtube videos of them running. It could be a 16% grade uphill and they are just loping up making it look so effortless. I hit a 16% grade uphill and I gulp and go “okay, here we go” and then plod up the hill. I want to look graceful but really don’t think I do look graceful at all. Or at least I used to……..until one day I realized that whereas I don’t run with the grace of the top runners and the athletes I so desire to be like I do run with a different kind of grace. I run with a grace that can appreciate the effort I’m putting into the run and where I can enjoy the efforts of the other runners around me. This is a grace that I have had to cultivate and that quite frankly came from shedding some stones in my life. See when you are overweight you begin to get really conscious of what your body looks like. I notice even today the tiny bulges and extra flesh I have in places that perhaps other people don’t have. I seldom run without a shirt not because I am scared of the sun but because I still have some jiggly portions of my body and I keep saying that one day I’ll run without a shirt on and show off my six pack abs also. But perhaps I won’t because I learned something else. Nobody cares what I look like on the outside (or maybe not nobody but nobody that matters in the grand scheme of life) but what the people around me care about is how I carry myself. I may not look like a ballerina trotting down the trails of life, making it look effortless but I do carry with me a certain grace that only comes from not looking at myself and setting what I look like or how I perform to be able to see the special me inside of me and what I have to offer to the people I am blessed to meet.
Grace is one of those words that you will find an abundance of in the Bible. Depending on which version you are reading it is a high of 131 times in the New Testament and a low of 118 times. One of my favorite is found in Ephesians 4:7 “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” Paul in chapter 3 talked about how even though he was the least of all God’s people he had been given a grace to “preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:7-8) and how this special endowment had brought with it a responsibility for service. I can’t set aside the stone of inadequacy I feel when I see great runners run past me but I can believe that I have been given enough grace to be able to encourage the other runners of life around me. I don’t believe I am the wisest around me but I do believe I am been given wisdom to share with those around me. I don’t believe I am the best at what I do but I do believe that I have been given a special endowment to understand how to do business profitably and that I am supposed to share that grace with those around me. There is like a fine razor’s edge between too cocky and being not confident enough in your abilities to be able to do the things you are called to do. That’s where grace comes in. To believe that you have been granted an unmerited favor, a special endowment means that you can’t just use that to enrich yourself or make life more comfortable for yourself. No grace is something to be shared and to be able to share it you are going to have to lay down the stone of inadequacy on the side of the trail and accept the grace you have been apportioned and then begin to use that grace to encourage other people.
Living an ultra life means laying aside the stone of inadequacy (the grace of the loping furry ape in my case) and accepting the grace that has already been given to you. Then use that grace to encourage others around you. It’s really difficult to move forward if you keep looking back at what you can’t do.