The Sacrament of Running
It may not be apparent to any of my readers, but those who know me in real life know that I’m a huge church nerd. That being said, I have recently been thinking of the idea of how we define sacraments. For those who are not from a faith community that has sacraments, the best way I think I can describe them is that sacraments are an outward expression of an inward process that can be repeated or, if not, at least remembered and celebrated. Some Christian denominations have two sacraments (commonly Baptism and Communion/Eucharist), while some have as many as seven, some of which are Marriage, Confession, Ordination, etc. All of these are physical. They involve elements that you can taste (bread and wine), feel (water), or hear (words of blessing). So, I’ve started to look at running as a sacrament – an outward activity or sign of an inward process.
Anyone who runs can tell you that transformation happens. First, it’s the cause of transformation. Example of this transformation could be lost weight, increased energy, a sense of purpose can be found, and a change in appetite. Eventually, though, things change. Running stops being the reason for the transformation and it becomes an outward sign of that transformation. For example, I haven’t lost weight recently. I haven’t felt an increase in energy (thank you, children), although I always feel a bit more energized after running than before.
Now, I feel like my running isn’t changing me. I’m changing, therefore I run. In my life, I’m experiencing a lot of growth, challenges, and opportunities and running becomes a sign of that process. I’m at a point in my life, now, when I’m less concerned with changing (it’s happening all around me all the time), and now I’m more concerned with processing those changes and learning how to live with them. And that’s what running is for me at the moment.
I’m not implying that everybody has to run or take up some crazy task in order to experience the same benefits of a sacramental experience. I could easily make an outward sign of inward processes by taking time to sit quietly, to talk with a friend, or to write poetry. It can be something you are already doing, making your morning coffee or eating lunch, bu I can’t recall a single person who is not going through inward processes, either physically or spiritually/emotionally, so I believe this kind of experience is beneficial for everybody. Find a task, do it, be present in it, and reap the benefits of physically embracing YOUR inward process. Better yet, as in a corporate worship setting, find a group of people to invest into, be changed by, and experience life together.