Are you a runner?
As a runner, I hear that question a lot. It is either asked of me or I am asking. What's funny are the answers. It sounds like a yes or no question, but as with many yes or no questions, I will hear yes, no, and everything in between. So, I obviously would answer this question with a definitive "Yes!" and probably go on to ask the same question back and end up in a whole conversation about how I started running (that is another blog altogether!). My running and triathlete friends would answer it the same. My non-running and non-athletic friends who can't run more than 5 mins. would obviously answer the question with a definitive no. Then, there are all those in between. Some will say, "I'm a jogger" (what does that mean?) or "I'm not fast" or "I run some" or "I can only run 3 miles" or "I used to run" and on and on. I find it interesting because it really was a yes or no question. Why all the other answers...or... "disclaimers"?
There is some debate among runners as to what makes a runner a runner. Are "jogging" and "running" really different? Some will say you have to run a certain number of times or miles per week to really be a runner. Or you have to run a certain pace to be a runner. So, I asked myself, what makes a runner a runner? There are different categories of runners. There are competitive runners, like me, who train regularly toward specific races. Then, there are recreational or casual runners who just run for fitness. These runners may be fast or slow runners. In my mind, it doesn't matter, but some will say the slow ones are joggers. What is jogging? Is jogging not running? Well, technically, if at any moment both your feet are off the ground, you are running. In fact, here is a definition from Wikipedia: a gait in which at regular points during the running cycle both feet are off the ground. So what is jogging? According to Wikipedia, jogging is a form of trotting or running at a slow or leisurely pace. OK, so it's settled. Jogging is running slowly. It's still running (since I have no idea how a human can trot)! I'm glad I settled that debate once and for all. ;)
So, why do people who run not all respond with a yes? I think it has to do with our identity and how we view ourselves. Running is part of my identity like so many other things I do. I think new runners or people who don't run as often or as fast either don't feel running is a part of who they are or they are afraid the person asking is going to judge them based on their running ability. They have inserted another word into the question in their head.
What is your identity? There are many questions about our identity that we may answer yes or no or somewhere in between. Even when we answer yes, do we add a disclaimer to our answer? Do we feel we are answering truthfully if we don't? It depends on who is judging. The question about being a runner or not has a grey area only because we make it grey. We judge others and ourselves. I think God would see it as black or white. For example, Are you a mother? Well, that question is pretty black and white to us. Either you are or not. Most people would agree if you have children, biological or adopted, then you are a mother. What if we change it by adding just one word: Are you a GOOD mother? That changes things a bit.
Are you a Christian? Just like the mother question, this one is pretty black and white. If you have accepted Jesus as your savior, then technically, you are a Christian. Add that word, though: Are you a GOOD Christian? Now you've made it grey. What's funny, though, is that word is not usually in the original question. Like the question, Are you a runner? it seems we have added that word in our head (because that's obviously what she REALLY meant to ask). If someone asks if you are a Christian, but you don't go to church, you will often add that disclaimer to your yes answer. Why?
So, to be a Christian, we don't have to go to church and do good deeds and read our Bibles, BUT if we want it to be part of our identity, we need to do these things. God is a forgiving and gracious God, but he does desire a relationship with us. Living out the Christian life and working to know Him makes it become part of who we are, just like being a mother or a runner. It doesn't make us better, but it makes us who we really are. If you run regularly and work toward becoming a better runner, you will answer the question, Are you a runner? with a YES! If you work hard to be a good mother and do what's best for your children, then you will believe you are a good mother. Christianity is the same. You have to practice it and work toward knowing God and becoming a better person, then it becomes a part of who you are.
So think about your identity and who you are. What are some words that describe you? What are some words you would LIKE to use to describe you without a "disclaimer"? How can you make those words part of your identity? It may be something concrete. For example, I would like to be an Ironman. So, I need to do an Ironman triathlon. Simple. It may be something less concrete, something grey. You can make it more black and white to you by working hard at it. Try to see yourself as God sees you, not as the world sees you. After all, God is the ultimate judge. Everything does not have to be black or white, but the closer we are to that, the more we will identify with the traits and identities we use to characterize ourselves. The more we are in a relationship with God, the less His character will be grey to us as well.