I’m a runner.
If you know me, you probably already know that. I have been running for over twelve years, including nine seasons of running competitively on a cross-country team. I love to run. I love to learn about running. I love meeting other runners. I love to talk about running. I do not like resting.
I considered not getting to run a punishment. For the learning schedule I wrote about a couple of weeks ago Sam and I have both a reward and a punishment system. If we complete the week’s schedule we get to go on a date, but if we do not complete it we have to take off two days of running the next week.
But now I’m injured and I haven’t really run in almost a month.
Resting was necessary at first, since I could barely walk, but it was still extremely hard. I had no patience. I was constantly restless and wanting to run, and about four days after I injured myself (at the Brasov marathon) I tried to run, but I only made it half a mile before the pain forced me to stop. I attempted to run a few more times after that, and I even managed to do a couple six mile runs, but not completely without pain. Finally, after I came back from a run and was limping around the house Sam advised for me to take off running until I was completely healed.
At first, as I was resting and struggling with not being able to run I kept asking myself why it was so hard for me. I probably could use a break, as I haven’t taken a real break from running since my sophomore year of high school. But I didn’t want to take a break. One day I just asked Sam what was wrong with me, why it was so hard for me.
“Maybe it is hard for you because running is such a part of your life,” he said. “Maybe when you don’t run you feel a little less ‘Julie’.” I just pondered that, trying to be patient and content with resting.
Even before I was injured I was struggling with my reasons for running. Unlike Sam, I hadn’t pinpointed my reason for running to my satisfaction. Ever since I finished my last season of cross-country I wasn’t sure what to do, what to train for, how to run. After running cross-country for so many years and centering my training around it, once my last season ended I felt a bit lost. I still had the desire to push myself and run competitively, but I also thought I had the desire to run long distance like Sam. But then I wasn’t sure that was for me either. I was having an “identity crisis,” all because I had to take a break from running.
The question of “who am I as a runner?” led me to ponder the bigger question of “who am I?” This is nothing new; I have both pondered and answered this question before, and I even led a study on the topic, but this time it struck me in a different way due to my circumstances and caused me to examine my recent attitude.
I have been studying Galatians with the Peters family on Google Communities (which may deserve its own post someday!) and last week a point was brought up that really stuck with me. The section we were studying was Galatians 3.26-4.7, and the question raised was how much race, gender, and social status must one give up to identify with Christ? We all came to the conclusion that we must give up everything to identify with Christ. We must die to our own identity and let Christ be the identity through which we do everything.
This made me think again about my identity and examine how I really thought of myself. In high school my cross-country coach did a devo for the girls’ team one day and she asked us all, “Who are you?” Were we girls? Were we runners? Were we the “cool” one, or the good student? The first thought that should come to our minds, if it is true, she told us, is that we are Christ’s. That has stuck with me through the years, and my recent injury and this Bible study brought it back to my attention once again and caused me to examine myself.
Is my identity in Christ? Yes. Am I still trying to hold on to some of my own identity? Maybe. So, if my identity is completely in Christ, then it is okay if I never run again. If my identity is in Christ, then I am a Christian, and I happen to be one who likes to run.
I am still a runner. I still can’t wait to run when my injury heals. But I’m okay with waiting a little longer. I pray I will glorify Christ through all that I do, including running. Running is not my identity; Christ is.
~ Julie Peters
Julie and I eat ice cream every night together. It is a routine that my single-self would have never permitted. At about 21:00 we get ready for bed and then I pull out our blender to make some ice cream, blending 340 grams of frozen bananas, 25 grams of peanuts, and some instant coffee. After blending it all together, we divide it into some coffee mugs and eat it together on our balcony, looking out out at the apartment buildings and the lights on the Orthodox Church. In the corner of my eye I see Julie grin, which makes me feel I am doing something right. My single-self would have never let me do this because it is “unproductive.”
My brother used to tell me “girls will slow you down.” Truth be told, he was actually advising me to start dating. My brother knew I was living too fast, trying to stay productive all the time. And he also knew I was odious, being impatient with the smallest of annoyances. As my brother Paul often does, he corrected me and then started laughing at me, actually he started laughing at this funny-truth and then at my annoyed reaction.
I need help going the speed limit; I do not balance well. When I eat donuts, I will eat four. When I work on cars, I’ll buy nine. When I eat healthily, I eat vegetables alone. Fruit has sugar. When I study, I don’t sleep. When I exercise, I run marathons. When I marry, I marry Julie, who is much the same way. As Julie and I have been together, we talk and laugh about our unbalanced tendency. So here are my thoughts on balance and its relevance to Julie’s and my marriage. Is living an unbalanced life good?
My initial thought is that unbalanced productivity is good. By “unbalanced productivity,” I mean accomplishing as much as possible. Paul, the apostle, says “make the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). So my thinking has been, and still is to some extent, I must do as many things as I can. Yes, Paul does not say anything about doing many things. To make the most use of our time can mean doing a few things but doing them well. And it seems that life is really only filled with but a few things. “Unbalanced productivity” can actually leave someone too busy for the “few things of life.” Being balanced is doing a few things well.
Relationships are the few things of life. This is what the Bible says as well as my emotions. In the Bible describes God creating man to have a relationship with him; this relationship is man’s greatest purpose. Also, God tells us the supreme virtue is love, the blood of a relationship. 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Not only does this make sense but this is how I feel. As I sit on the balcony with Julie, eating ice cream, her smile impresses me with the feeling that I am doing something right. Our relationship is more important than the things I could be doing. Let me end with this proverb which is now hanging above my desk. “Un nume bun este mai de dorit decît o bogăţie mare şi a fi iubit preţuieşte mai mult decît argintul şi aurul. Prov. 22:1,” which means, “A good name is more desirable than great wealth and being loved is to be cherished more than silver and gold.”
Sam and I both love being productive. Most of the time this is a good thing. I greatly dislike the thought of wasting time, so I am always looking for something to do to fill every bit of time. If I watch a movie with my family or friends, I must have something to knit or crochet, laundry to fold, or some other small task to do. I always bring yarn, a book, or my journal on long car rides. If I can listen to an audio book while doing something with my hands (like knitting) it is even better! Sam is the same way, as he loves to listen to audio books while running or cooking. Sam’s brother and best man in our wedding, Abe, gave a speech at our reception, and he talked about how Sam always wants to be productive; he always wants to be moving and doing something. There have been times when someone has told me to slow down, that it’s okay to “just be with people” and not feel like I must be doing something productive (but Mama always reminds me that being with people and building relationships is productive). This is true, and I hope we are always able to keep this perspective (or be reminded by others) and use our love for productivity and busyness to help others.
We also both love to learn. While my love for academic learning is perhaps not as strong as Sam’s, I thoroughly enjoyed the privilege of learning from so many wonderful professors at Florida College. I looked forward to writing papers or learning in class, but I always said I would enjoy college so much more without tests (but I have come to appreciate tests a bit more). Even outside of academia Sam and I both enjoy reading and learning on our own, from subjects like running or diet to methods of learning languages.
Since we both love being productive and we both enjoy learning, it is not surprising that both of these things have been present throughout our relationship. The summer after we started dating, while Sam was preaching in Ohio and I was at home in Mississippi, we would talk on the phone every night. One night a week we would study the Bible, and another night we would discuss whatever book we had decided to read together, including Walden and Machiavelli’s The Prince, and we attempted Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nation. We also decided to do some research on our own and write essays for each other each week, to kill two birds with one stone in a sense. We would research for one paper, but learn from two.
After we got engaged and Sam left for Romania, we got into a schedule of talking on FaceTime every morning. We usually had plenty to talk about, but we enjoyed learning together and wanted to continue doing so. We ended up making a schedule with a different subject for each day to discuss and learn together. We would always spend part of the time talking about “normal things,” things going on in our lives or various random subjects and questions to ask each other, and then we would get into the topic for the day.
Typically, on Mondays we would study marriage. We had a list of books various people recommended to us, and each time we would read a chapter and think of questions to ask each other or important points to bring up. Tuesdays were devoted to learning the Romanian language, and on Wednesdays we studied the Gospel of Luke. On Thursday we discussed another book we decided to read (the latest was Gretchen Rubin’s Better Than Before), and on Fridays we studied marriage with Sam’s dad. We also found time to learn together about running, eating healthy, Greek, and various different topics in the Bible or different ideas that were on our minds. Some days we would begin talking about something different and we would just spend our time discussing whatever the relevant issue was, not worrying about studying our specific subject for the day.
I have heard the advice many times to spend time with your significant other in a variety of situations to get to know who they really are. I definitely agree with this, and Sam and I were blessed to have many different opportunities to be together in several different settings. However, being in a long distance relationship can make this somewhat difficult. Although talking on the phone or through FaceTime cannot compare to being together in different situations, I felt like being able to discuss so many different subjects helped us see each other in slightly different settings and bring up topics to learn each other’s opinions on certain things. When we studied the Bible I got to learn how Sam studied and how he came to certain conclusions. This also gave us the prompt to talk about a multitude of different spiritual topics and issues. Studying marriage had similar effects; we learned each other’s love language and what makes each other feel respected or loved. In reading books together we learned of each other’s opinions and points of view on various subjects. Studying together was very productive—we learned both new and interesting information, and we learned more about each other.
After we were married and got to see each other every day, we stopped all of our studies except for our Bible study (we finished Luke and now we are studying Acts). However, now that we are getting settled in our own apartment in Romania, we began scheduling different times we could discuss various things like before. We still have a list of books we want to read together, and we never quite finished our list of recommended marriage books (although we have both expressed that we would like to reread the ones we read before since we are married now and have a new perspective). We currently have on our schedule to study Acts, read about marriage, and read a couple other books on our list.
We will probably not be able to set aside time every single day to study together now, and someday we may will no longer have the time to study together so much or so often. But for now, we are enjoying the opportunity of doing some of the things we love, being productive and learning, together.
~ Julie Peters