Practice and experience
Over the last two years, I enjoyed a perfect view of Vander Veer Park from my office window in the 129 House. No matter the time of year, whenever I’ve looked out across the street, I could count on spotting at least one jogger making the approximate mile-long loop around this little botanical island in the sea of Davenport.
When I was in college, I was sold hook-line-and-sinker on the concept of running as the perfect lifelong exercise for health and happiness. I gave it a solid half a year of my life, carving out enough time to run a 5K five days a week. I tried out a variety of trails, running buddies, music playlists, and podcasts to enrich the experience. After six months of shaping my newfound identity and lifestyle as a runner, I came to one very solid conclusion: I enjoyed breathing a whole lot more than jogging.
Although I’m not destined to be a runner, I still hold a great respect and admiration for the runners I observe out my office window, especially when I take the time to notice the variety of runners out there. On any given day, I can gaze across Lombard Street and spot a pack of St. Ambrose students, chatting and laughing together as they migrate across the pavement. I am also likely to see senior citizens, probably well into retirement but with bodies the likes of ageless Greek titans. Finally, there are the “cadet” runners, those newly enrolled in a bootcamp mindset for getting into running, either for the very first time or the first time in a while. They tend to be the most red-faced of the bunch, shuffling as they gradually work their way up to sprinting.
We might not all be destined to run marathons, but I bet we’ve all experienced what it’s like to develop a particular craft, skill, or lifestyle as a labor of love. There is no shortage of endeavors that require a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears before you can get from shuffling to sprinting, be that in playing piano, studying biochemistry, or practicing carpentry. Even relationships, from marital to collegial, take their own sorts of ongoing “training” and dedication. In my vocation as a pastor, practice and experience has meant everything to my growth, professionally and personally. That is why this residency program at St. Paul has been such a gift to me. Not only have I had a wide variety of caring coaches and expert trainers (clergy and laity), but I’ve also had the support of a community that “gets it” when it comes to grace and encouragement for the long-haul.
Like the various kinds of runners I’ve seen at Vander Veer, you’ve given me the courage to get started, the support to keep going, and the passion to make this a life-long journey. This column is my way of saying a deep and sincere thank you to each and every one of you, but most of all, it is also my opportunity to ask the Lord to bless you on your individual marathons, in faith and in life. May you find these words from Romans 5 to be true, that we all might, “boast in our struggles, knowing that struggling produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”