If you’re not familiar with the ‘Couch-to-5k’ App, then let me enlighten you – so that you can celebrate with me.

Couch-to-5k‘ is an App from the NHS that leads you on a 9 week, thrice-weekly journey of running. Slowly building you up to the 5k, 30-minute running goal which seemed fairly impossible at the start.
This was a challenge!

But not primarily a physical challenge – although it was that for sure. For me, it was primarily a mental challenge. Why? Two reasons.

Challenge 1: I really really love what I do – even in lockdown

I feel so privileged to be able to lead, coach, preach, teach, and train others.

I love taking daily steps towards a God-given vision. I love the privilege of mentoring someone to grow into their next level of leadership. I love the creative process of writing a chapter in a new book or preparing a message. I love what I do (well, 99% of the time – we all have off days, right?). And so, when my alarm went off at 5:30 pm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, bidding me to lay down my work, and venture out into our cold garage to board our treadmill – I really didn’t want to obey. Why would I stop doing something I loved? This brings me to my next challenge!

Challenge 2: I hate running!

Seriously! I wish I could tell you after nine weeks that I’ve caught the bug. But I haven’t. Maybe I just need to give it more time. But I don’t hate running because of the physical challenge – it’s just that I find it SO BORING! And this was even with watching something enjoyable on my Ipad whilst I exercised.

Even then, I kept looking at the clock every few minutes, determined to keep going but wishing – praying – that the ordeal would soon be over.

Of course, when the run was done I always felt a great sense of achievement, and the release of endorphins reminded me that this exercise was doing my mind, body, and soul good.

So I’m always pleased I’ve pushed through. I’m grateful that I’ve achieved my first goal for my 50th year to complete the ‘Couch-to-5k’. I definitely feel better for it, and I aim to keep up the habit (despite the above challenges!).

As I commit to growing in physical fitness in the months ahead, I also want to commit to the same when it comes to my spiritual health. I’m so very aware – as a Strong Type A, ENTJ, Goal-Oriented Leader – that I can regularly run the risk of being deceived by the lie that ‘only doing is achieving’ (you have no idea the satisfaction I get from ticking off a ‘to do’ list!).

God created me as a human being, not a human doing – and so I’m intentionally bringing the next stretch to my habits to ‘be with God’ (an hour a day, 1/2 day a week, 1 day a month, etc.). New rhythms of relationships with the One who brings rest and peace to my soul like no other.

Is this easy? Of course not.

My leadership brain wants to hijack my Divine time, reminding me I have things to do, checklists to tick, people to meet. But if I take a deep breath. Slow down. Make a choice. I remember, that the loving Lord of all creation is super-keen to hang out with me. Maybe to chat. Maybe to listen. Maybe simply just to rest with Him. How could I possibly refuse? Who else could be more important? What task a greater priority?

There’s a lovely verse in Acts 4:13 reflecting a comment on the religious authorities’ perception of Peter and John…

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.”

I think those last ten words are the greatest compliment anyone could ever give. In the same way that regular exercise is good for my physical body, I’m believing that new regular, deeper habits ofbeing with God will do my soul good.

I’m praying that the more time I spend with Jesus, the more His character rubs off on me so that the overflow of my life and soul will be love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, self-control, and faithfulness (to name a few examples). Now that…that…would be something beautiful and precious truly worth celebrating.

I pray that you too will stretch into some new healthy life-giving habits that will be good for your mind, body, and soul.