How do you feel about running?
I ran track in 7th grade. And then I quit track. I wasn’t (that) bad, I just hated it. I went in thinking I could jog around a track and chat with my friends, maybe collect a couple medals along the way. I quickly realized that the huffing and puffing and days of sore muscles was not my style. You mean I have to WORK at this? No way.
I remember being very certain that I was able, I just didn’t want to practice. I knew I was lucky because some people are not physically able to run, but even though I could, I just – didn’t.
Fast forward to 2020. I was going a little crazy being stuck at home as much as I was (don’t we all know that feeling!) I was feeling so crazy, in fact, that I wondered if huffing and puffing and days of sore muscles might help me feel not quite so trapped.
For the first time since I was 12, I started consistently running again. Along with a friend, I began training for a virtual 5k race. I knew I was physically able, it was simply a matter of deciding to, a matter of arranging my schedule and diet and sleep to support what I knew I was capable of. A matter of pushing my limits and getting uncomfortable and testing just how far and fast I was able to go (ahem, spoiler: still not very far, nor very fast. Haha.) I started celebrating the fact I was practicing, instead of comparing myself to others or wishing I could go further, faster. I would get home from even my very worst runs and instead of being down on myself, I’d say out loud: “I ran. It wasn’t good, but I still am practicing. I haven’t quit.”
I was elated after my first virtual 5k. I had done it! There was something magical about the fact that I had done what I always knew in theory that I could do, but simply hadn’t practiced. I went from being able to run, to running.
1 John 3 reminds us that because the Spirit dwells in us, we are capable of Love. True Love. We have the ability! 1 John 3 also reminds us that just “being able” isn’t the point. Little children, let’s not love just in word or talk but in deed and truth. It means more to practice love – even if it’s with some huffing and puffing and sore muscles! – than it does to just talk about it.
God’s love is never theoretical. Jesus didn’t just think about His ability to come to earth to reconcile us to God. He didn’t just imagine how cool it would be to have relationships with each and every one of us. No, He did it. He knew what He was capable of and He loved in deed and truth. Then He sent His Spirit so that each one of us is capable of that same sacrificial love. The Holy Spirit is abiding – dwelling, settling – inside of everyone who follows Jesus, so that we are capable of sharing that same limitless love that was given to us.
If you follow Jesus, you are fully capable of practicing love. Yes, it might come with huffing and puffing and it might not be pretty some days. But it’s a capability that comes with the Spirit living inside of you! You have more power than just your own. This Advent season, we have a chance to remember and celebrate that because Jesus loved us, we have a capability we never had before – a capability to practice loving God and loving others.