The word in Greek is: aphorontes. It means to look away from all else and to focus our eyes on a specific something. It means to turn our mind to…
This is what Paul means when he says, “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:1,2 ESV).
It was 90 degrees plus and David and I were peddling up Schavey Road’s gradual and steady incline for the last 2 miles of our bike ride before transitioning over to a run in our brick workout in DeWitt — the place where we live. A brick workout is when an athlete trains for two different sports consecutively — typically a bike followed by a run. The 11-mile course that circles from my house to David’s provides a nice variety of small hills. Riding east to west on Clark Rd., there is a stretch in between Airport and Francis that not only throws, arguably, the hardest hill in town at you, but also provides an open clearing for headwinds to make you feel as though you are riding with a parachute attached to the back of your bike. Keeping more than an 18 mph pace for an hour and a half on the loop boosted our spirits, especially because we knew that we took it easy in key places where we could have pushed the pace significantly.
Feeling quite good, David — a much better runner — decided to power up the last hill to purposely burn his legs before the run. Fresh legs for Dave on the run would make slowing down to my pace too difficult. At the start of the run, I began to get anxious. Being so weak in running, I become somewhat obsessive about controlling as much of my running experience as possible. I want to know the course so I can anticipate the hills and when the halfway point is, consider how my pace looks compared to my perceived exertion, etc.
As we began the run, I realized that I didn’t have my watch on so David agreed to keep time for us. We were planning a 30-minute run and were hoping to feel good at the end of it to begin our tapering week — the week before the race — with a nice confidence boost. It wasn’t our lucky day. As we began the run, I wasn’t feeling as good as I had hoped. Trying to control my breathing, I asked what our pace was. David responded: 10:09 — if we kept that pace, we could possibly do a 5k. By mile two, things began to settle and we were doing well. And then we hit the parking lot.
David convinced me to run by his house since there’s less traffic there than on the road we usually run in front of my house. I’m comfortable running by my house because the gradual hill on the way out means a nice downhill on the way back. By David’s house, the rolling hills actually worry me more than the gradual hill by my house. I agreed to running near David’s house but convinced him to run a 5k course that he ran during a race several weeks back.
During the second half of the course, we hit the parking lot of the DeWitt High School. The course circles the parking lot before spitting us out to the last quarter mile or so that leads us to the end. The problem with parking lots in the summer is that they are a huge black piece of asphalt that nicely engulfs in intense heat anyone that dares to hang in its midst for any period of time when the sun is out in the middle of the day. Bad move.
As we circled around, cars scattered throughout the lot with people sitting inside of them enjoying the nice cool breeze of their air conditioning units, we felt naked before their eyes as they stared at the two crazy guys running around in a large circle sporting tight Revolution uniforms. No water stations were around to quench our thirst. No shade to—even slightly block the intense heat baking our bodies. I began to lose control of my thinking. I wanted to know exactly what was going on — how far we had to go, what our pace was, if there was a shortcut out of the parking lot or an alternate route.
It was then, that David began to speak: 10 more minutes, 7 more minutes, 6 more minutes. He’d finished the course before. My training parter for multiple runs, rides, and swims, he understood my weaknesses and my progress. You’ve got this, we’re almost there. As David broke the silence while pacing me that day, he also opened my mind to what it means to: look to Christ. In the heat of the day, I learned by experience one of life’s most valuable lessons: look to Christ, as opposed to looking to myself.
Don’t focus on what I don’t have: the watch, the water, the energy, the desire to press on. Instead, trust the one in front of me. The one who’s done it before; the one who has the track record; the one who knows my weaknesses and progress.
In our Christian walk, to look to Christ, means to take our eyes off of ourselves and trust this: that Christ’s Christian experience is trustworthy for me to follow. That looking to Christ is a process that requires learning the lesson of turning my sight away from other things as much as learning to fix my eyes on the Founder and Perfecter of my faith. In my Christian walk, as in running, if all I can think about is a good reason to stop, I will. But in looking to Christ, I can only find reasons to keep pressing on.