I dreaded conditioning season as a high school athlete. Equally awful was sitting the bench, and I sat the bench for almost an entire season of volleyball my freshman year.
Yup, I was that kind of athlete. Enjoyed the game, dreamed of being stronger and contributing to the team, but hated the training.
If you're an athlete, you know how important training is. Maybe you're an artist or a musician. Whatever your work or hobby, training and discipline matter in order to improve or reach a goal.
After my fifth baby's birth, I started running. At the time, I knew very little about training. Running is running, isn't it? I didn't experience the benefits of training until a few years ago when a friend coached me for a 10K race. During that season, Saint Paul's words—like those in today's reading (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)—resonated deep in my soul. He became my spiritual running coach.
After miles and hours of training runs, my race came. The "glory story" wasn't in a first, second, or even third place win (I didn't). It was in learning discipline and perseverance and in allowing the transformation to shape the rest of my life.
My spiritual life is what it is today because of my race training.
With Saint Paul's words in my mind as I ran, I realized that the same kind of athletic discipline can shape my prayer life.
"Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one" (1 Corinthians 9:25).
I learned to show up in prayer, even when I don't feel like it. I learned to work hard for a goal, even if no one notices. "Discipline in every way" applies to how I care for my family, my health, my home, and how I do my work. I learned that effort counts and nothing is wasted with the Lord.
And winning that crown? That's the whole goal of this life—holiness and life with Christ.
Winning is following the path laid by Christ. Run so as to win, sister. I'm cheering you on.