Running to Serve
2.11.2014 | by Tessa Hoefle, Senior
After four years as a long distance runner for Lipscomb’s track team, I’m pretty used to getting questions about how and why we run. From the outside I know that what we do looks like an incredible time investment, and that’s true: there’s no arguing that it takes a lot of time to do sixteen-mile runs. On one of these runs recently, a teammate of mine and I had a conversation about priorities. Somewhere around mile eleven, she asked me what I would do if I had $86,400 to spend every day. The only condition is that whatever I did not spend I would not get to keep for the next day. What would I spend it on? Would I waste any? What would my day look like?
That’s what time is like, she said. There are 86,400 seconds every day, and they are ours to spend. You will spend some of yours today eating, some texting, some reading this article. We give our time to all of the things that ask for it.
As daunting as sixteen miles sounds, these runs have taught me to ask a question: When you give your time to something, what is it giving you time for? No matter how many blisters I get or how bored I get of running the same trails, amidst our completely overfilled schedules, it has been running that has given me time for some of the most incredible women I’ve met—in something as simple as conversations like these.
It’s been almost two months since forty-two members of the track team served in Morant Bay, Jamaica. Those eight days were spent on more service, more worship, more love and conversation, connection, prayer, thankfulness, and joy than should be possible in that amount of time. On my second international mission trip with the track team, I learned that there is no itinerary that can prepare you for what God will do in one day that you give fully to him.
Wake up before sunrise, run a 10k up the mountain, bond with some brave sprinters, try a new fruit off of a tree, host a sports day for the entire local high school of future Olympians, create, administer, and run a 400-meter obstacle course, get half of your head in corn rows, apply sunscreen about sixteen times (fun fact: no amount of sunscreen prevents a Swiftwick tan line), teach Jamaicans how to play two-hand-touch football, drive through a river, hike through a jungle, swim under a waterfall, stash some gifts for our secret prayer pals, perform a skit in front of a roomful of Jamaicans, and clean ourselves up in time to spend New Year’s Eve with the Morant Bay Church of Christ.
For eight days, we spent time witnessing through the Morant Bay Church of Christ, which lives and loves, beating with part of our Lipscomb heart from more than 1,300 miles away. We spent time learning about a place in the world that God works in every day. We spent a morning witnessing three teammates give their lives to Christ, and a moment that would change them forever. There’s no arguing that that time is gone—or that it was worth spending.
In the two months since Jamaica, some time has been spent reflecting on that experience, but a lot of it has been spent how it would have been regardless: homework, practice, sleep, church. Competition has started for the indoor season. You could say that things have gone back to normal. Except isn’t it true that when you spend your time on the things that are worthwhile, although these things take time, you find that they also give it?
As we spend our time on homework, we have a moment to be thankful for everything that God gives us here. As we spend our time on practice, we have a few hours to remember the things that are really important. As we go to bed here in Nashville, we have the time to close our eyes and remember the rolling voice of pastor Mike’s “God’s Unchanging Hand,” the Jamaican waterfall, or the sunrise over the ocean that baptized our new sisters in Christ. You could say that things have gone back to normal for us, because the things that we invest our time in haven’t gone anywhere. Sixteen miles are still waiting for me next Sunday. But I have been given two hours to spend with the teammates whose hearts I have witnessed in the service of God—and (just in case anyone’s still wondering) I think that’s something worth running for.