“Oh,” my friend groaned. “I really don’t want to run tonight, but I told myself I would run 3 and be done.”
“Come on! It will be fun,” I said.
I had just started running and had proudly finished my one-mile training run. Since I had never run before, it didn’t take much success to feel euphoric. And in my nascent runner’s high, I could hardly fathom someone not wanting to run.
It didn’t take long, of course, for me to fathom quite well the lure of a warm couch over a cold run. I learned very quickly how important a regiment was.
“Even if you can’t run the full distance, at least go for a mile,” our coaches told us. “You might be surprised that once you get out there you feel like going farther. But if not, at least you put another mile on your legs.”
Another mile on our legs. That’s all it was some days. Very little joy, just a lot of going through the motions. Yet those difficult, disciplined days paid off, as our bodies grew stronger.
It’s easy when something is new and exciting to dive in with passion. But somewhere along the line almost every new thing – new job, new hobby, new relationship – will take some effort. This is true with our physical pursuits, and it is also true with our spiritual pursuits.
When we first come into a relationship with God, or even when we first renew our relationship, the passion and excitement can be euphoric. We are encountering not just someone who loves us, but who is the very essence of love itself. But over time, our eagerness to stay connected can be overshadowed by daily life.
We aren’t alone in this. In the second chapter of Revelation, John warned the church at Ephesus that they needed to return to their first love. “You have forsaken your first love…Repent and do the things you did at first.”
God is, in fact, our first true love.
In the same way that my passion for running slowly waned, my passion to stay connected to God can slowly diminish. And in the same way that a training regiment can carry me through a struggling running season, a training regiment can also carry me through those times I don’t feel as emotionally invested in my spiritual walk.
“Do the things you did at first,” John suggested. Maybe you don’t feel the same passion you once did, but you don’t have to feel connected to be connected. Here are some suggestions.
- Use an audio Bible. Get a Bible on CD, check out websites like ListenersBible.com, or download an app like Bible.is. If you can’t seem to find dedicated study time, immerse yourself in God’s word aurally.
- Listen to sermons anytime – around the house, in the car, while you’re exercising. Good teaching is not just for Sunday morning service or Wednesday night Bible Study. Find a Christian radio station. Download a podcast. Search on YouTube. Great teachers from all around the world stream messages.
- Put God’s love into action… even if you don’t feel like it. Valentine’s Day is a great day to reach out to others, but you don’t have to wait for a special occasion. Share a hug. Send a card. Give a flower. You may be surprised to learn how much brightening someone else’s day can also brighten yours.
You may find, as my running coaches once told me, that once you take one small step you may suddenly feel like taking more. But even if not, putting forth even a small effort is still growing your spiritual muscle. You may wake up one day to find that the passion toward your first love has been rekindled in a new way, even deeper than before.
And He will welcome you with open arms.
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.