Hazel: I recently found out I have a place in the Great North Run (a half marathon that takes place down the road from me in Newcastle in September). While I have several months to train and prepare myself for this, I have found, getting up to go for a run in the cold and darkness of winter in Durham is very difficult. It is hard work for my body, but perhaps more importantly, doing a long run is hard work for my mind.
I use the Nike+ running app to help me train and it offers a selection of pre-prepared workouts where you can stick your headphones in and listen to a coach offer motivation for your whole run. These workouts are all named and my favourite, by far, is the “I Don’t Wanna Run Run”. In it, the coach offers empathy for why finding motivation is hard, he talks through all the reasons why we might not want to run, and then he unceasingly offers encouragement which keeps you going.
I know that training for ordination isn’t exactly the same as training for a half marathon. But as the year has really got under way, it has certainly felt a bit like it at times. It feels quite tough to be academically assessed on your ability to offer pastoral care, or your preaching. It’s challenging to be around people who know a lot more about the Anglican Church than you do. It’s tough to balance married life, placement commitments, spiritual development, academic work, college life, social interactions and half-marathon training.
I thought it would be like going back to university, and it’s hard to explain why, but it’s just not. Suddenly it makes sense when Hebrews tells us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us”.
Of course there’s beauty in it too. Sometimes I find myself blown away by the beauty of Durham riverbanks as I run alongside it. And the unexpected glimpses of the cathedral at various corners along the way. And it is the same with college life. I am surrounded by inspirational people who have embraced both me and Sam. The topics I’ve covered in my essays have got my brain working overtime and in moments have brought me joy in understanding.
And so there are moments when I wish the Church of England had an “I Don’t Wanna Run Run” that I could listen to to get me through the daily stuff that feels challenging.
But then I remember we do! The Church of England doesn’t have ownership on this one. But the Church eternal has access to the ultimate coach. A coach who offers empathy, who we can talk things through with, who unceasingly offers us encouragement. And our coach isn’t a generic coach who says the same thing to each person. Our coach knows us, created us and loves us.
This lent I am taking up the practice of silent prayer again, which I learned during my time in the Community of St Anselm. I’m sure there will continue to be ups and downs and this won’t be the last time my motivation wavers. But God knows the plans he has for me and without the hard work of training, I know I couldn’t make it to the end of the race.