It hasn’t been ten years since graduating from college and within those years I have lived in; Germany, Pennsylvania and Florida. Each chapter provided a variety of challenges, opportunities for growth, and amazing memories. As I take a few moments to reflect on the different places I have lived and the communities I have been a part of there is something that seems to be consistent; everywhere I have been, people around me quickly associate me with running, and running, with me. This realization was made more clear to me when my boss recently told me to, “process this idea on your next long run.” Not even 18 months in this new location and the running association has arrived.
When I first realized this, it caught me by surprise a bit. I don’t deny that I run a lot, and I acknowledge that I have competed in a number of races in recent years. But, I don’t think I ever sought to have running be one of the ways in which people identify me. I don’t envision myself as someone who openly advertises my runs, or my training regimen. (In fact, over the past 18 months I have only done one race which is the lowest number in a calendar year since graduating from college) So, after living in different communities I began to wonder why this running identity seemed to follow me wherever I went, and why it was so quick to be something multiple people picked up on.
Working as a teacher in a high school, I often see students get stuck with labels. Within a group of friends you may have; “the athlete” or “the smarty-pants” or “the movie buff.” People quickly and often get labeled by their peers based upon their interests and habits. Labels is one thing high school and the real world have in common, labels are still given to people after high school. In many of my communities, I have been labeled “the runner.”
The point of this post, and the thought I have been wrestling with is this: People around me may quickly associate me with running – but do they just as quickly associate me with being a disciple of Jesus? Do I talk about running to such an extent that people have no choice but to label me as their friend “the runner”? Do I talk about Jesus to such an extent that people have no choice but to label me as their friend, “a follower of Christ”? I may give off a vibe that I have a running identity. But, do I live the lifestyle that shows Jesus Christ is my identity?