From the District Superintendent

The Blessing of Slowness

Posted 12 May, 2021 by Rev J. Douglas Forrester

I believe my brother Michael possesses an ability to perform the Jedi Mind Trick. This has to be true, otherwise, he never could have convinced me to sign up for the 2004 Richmond Marathon. I was serving three rural congregations at the time, was the father of a two-year old, and married to a wife who was working as a full-time educator. I did not have time to train my body to endure running for 26.2 miles.

And yet, that is exactly what happened.

Because marathon times apparently live on the internet forever, I was able to find the list of finishing times for everyone who competed in the race that year. I finished in a not-so-blistering pace of six hours, eleven minutes, and thirty-two seconds. To put this in perspective, I was thirty-three and the winner of the men's 60-64 age group finished in three hours, twenty-two minutes, and thirty-nine seconds.

I ran the race at half the speed of a man twice my age. I was also second to last in my age bracket.

Still, I am glad I did it.  I learned a great deal about myself and about my work. Here is what training for a marathon taught me about ministry:

1. Pace yourself. The expression "it's a marathon, not a sprint" is true. One of the common mistakes runners make in their first marathon is to start the race by running too fast. The same is true of training. Increasing your daily miles too fast leads to injury.

2. Practice grace. Some days are better than others. Terrible days of training regularly come on the heels of good days, and vice versa. Most times, there is no explanation for these irregularities.

3. God can use small offerings. Just getting started can make a difference. There were days I told myself that I only had to run for 10-15 minutes, but really this was a trick to get me out the door. Once I had overcome that potential energy that was trying to keep me off the road, the actual kinetic energy of running was often enjoyable.

4. Don't do it all yourself. There is strength in numbers. Companionship is nice and often having someone run with you pushes you to train harder than you would have if you were alone.

5. Self-care matters. The better you eat and sleep, the better you feel and the better you run. The better you run, the better you sleep and feel.  

6. Slow is good.  When I was training, my slow pace enabled me to be more aware of the blessings around me: the cool air, the changing leaves, even the deer by the side of the road who I startled from his slumber. Running enabled me to see and experience things that were invisible to me through my car windows. 

7. You are closer than you think. You are always closer think to the finish line than you think you are. The starting line in a marathon is not mile zero. Mile zero is where you were the day you laced your shoes and hit the road for the first time. On marathon day, you already have hundreds of miles behind you, and those miles as well as the discipline it took to accrue them has prepared you for whatever lay ahead.

As the church, we have all been running hard for a long time as we have pounded the tough terrain of COVID-19, and there are days when we wonder if the race can ever be completed. Just remember that, as is the case with running, the road behind has helped prepare us for the road ahead in ways nothing else could have. As I survey the churches of the Roanoke District, I find disciples who are tired yet resilient, and it is my conviction that our redemptive is glorified in each and every sacrifice made in service to God's kingdom. God has been using this time of pandemic to prepare us to face what is ahead with new skills, new gifts and new knowledge that will serve us well as together we endeavor to more deeply know Christ, and make Him known. 

Don't give up. You are closer than you think.

Grace and peace, 

Doug

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near.

- Romans 13:11-12