Running A Mile: Hannah Jones-Nelson

NazToo-er Hannah Jones-Nelson brings us October’s post. Hannah writes of herself: I am a fourth generation Nazarene, currently district licensed and serving as Youth Pastor at Manteno COTN in Illinois. I am halfway through my M.Div at NTS. I am married to my high school sweetheart, David, who claims to be the Assistant (to the) Youth Pastor. We love all things Kansas City!

Confession time: I have a really hard time doing things I’m not good at. A really hard time. In high school PE class, I chose to walk the mile extremely slow – we’re talking almost a crawl – because I would rather have a bad mile time on purpose than a bad time because I wasn’t good at it. As a serial overachiever, early in life I made it my goal to never be bad at something unless I could control the outcome. Running has never been one of those things; I am definitely not built to run.

In the spirit of trying to overcome horrible habits and behaviors I developed as a child (isn’t that just what adulthood is?), I decided to start running. I needed to do something that was difficult, something I may fail at over and over again, in order to realize that this does not change my value as a human. I wanted to be able to learn and grow and love things that are outside of my comfort zone! So, after starting and stopping a few times in college, I picked it up again last fall. I tried everything under the sun in order to get better at running, but literally nothing was working. I was close to giving up and accepting the fact that I may never be able to run more than a short distance at a time.

Around this time, I had traveled to Kansas City to complete a weeklong module at seminary. I started to talk with a new friend about my constant struggle with endurance and my inability to run longer than a few minutes at a time. I explained how frustrated and overwhelmed I was, knowing that I may never be able to enjoy this hobby. She shared a simple but life-changing piece of advice (one that is so obvious you’ll laugh at me for not realizing it sooner): if you can’t run a mile, you’re running too fast.

That’s it. And I kid you not, the next day I ran a mile without stopping!

Why did it take me so long to figure that one out? Why did I spend hours trying to figure out the secret trick that made everyone else good at it? Why was it this easy, but every expert blog and post and article failed to mention it? I think that sometimes we do this with our faith, with our ideas on changing the world, with our desire to seek justice. We complicate it and struggle and get distracted by everything except this simplest thing. Maybe we are running too fast. Maybe we are forgetting to set our sights on what matters, maybe we are trying to impress others or follow certain rules because we think that’s the best way to get where we’re going. But maybe there is a simpler answer.

Maybe we are really just called to love, and we complicate it by asking who our “neighbor” is or by sticking labels on others that makes it okay to not love them as much. We complicate it by explaining that loving God can only be done through a strict set of rules instead of recognizing the freedom Christ offers. We avoid doing things outside of our comfort zone because we are just not sure what to do with them. Are we making this harder than it should be? Are we choosing to stay away because it makes us uncomfortable? Are we hiding behind answers that don’t really help us to love? Maybe…probably.

Maybe we are really just called to love, and we complicate it by trying to go too fast. Are we burning ourselves out by engaging in all things all of the time? We don’t have to be the greatest at changing the world around us. We don’t need to go the farthest or last the longest, but we are called to do our part. It is overwhelming to see all of the brokenness around us in our communities, governments, systems, and churches. What can I do as a single person to fix this mess? How can I make the world a better place when there is so much to do? All I know is that a simple piece of advice has helped me grow more physically and mentally than I had in a few years of trying to run. Maybe today you need a simple piece of advice. Love others and do it even if it’s uncomfortable; Love others and slow down if you need to.