“You told me to remind you about Ezra,” Tim said as Paul caught up to him. “And I want to know what you’ve been telling God about me.”
Paul laughed. “Nothing bad, I assure you. In fact, I thank God for you. Instead of being grateful for stuff, I’m grateful for people. And I’m content with whatever stuff I have.”
Tim shook his head. “You don’t strike me as someone who settles.”
“I didn’t say I settled. In fact, why do you think I’m out here running? I’m training because I don’t settle. I want to improve. But I’m content with what I have.”
Tim looked confused.
“I’ve been running for a long time,” Paul said. “I’ve seen fads in shoes, in exercise plans, in clothing, in technology. But I decided a long time ago that I was going to concentrate on running. If I have new shoes or old, I still have to put in the miles. A watch doesn’t make me faster or slower. A shirt is a shirt (unless it’s cotton and it gets wet. Then it a dead weight.) I focus on the run, not the stuff.”
Tim nodded. “I’ve struggled with that a little. Sometimes I read a magazine and see some new thing. I want to buy it because it seems like I’ll get better. Usually, I’ll remember that what makes me better is running.”
“Sometimes those shoes look amazing, don’t they?” Paul said. And then he laughed. “But I’m content with these.”
“But what about Ezra?” Tim said. “Didn’t you say he had something to do with giving advice, like shoe ads?”
“Ezra. He’s the title character of a short book, though it’s mostly about other people,” Paul said. “There’s a short description of him that I think about any time I look at people who try to give advice or teach others about running. Or anything else. It goes, ‘Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel.'”
“That’s nice,” Tim said. “But what does that have to do training advice? Was Ezra a running coach?”
Paul smiled. “Ezra was a coach of sorts, but I don’t see him running. Here’s why I talk about him. The first thing we read is that Ezra was committed. His heart was set. He was passionate about what he was doing. He was training for something.”
Tim shook his head. “Always with the training. From our first conversation. But I’m working on it.”
“Second, Ezra studied,” Paul moved on. “Before he taught, he learned. He wanted to know all about what God said. When I’m looking for who I’m going to trust for advice about running or nutrition or life, I want to know that they aren’t making it up. I want to know they have studied.”
TIm nodded. “I get that. When I hear someone talking about a training method, I’m starting to look for their research. And if they are saying that this is brand new, never before discovered, secret until now, I need to know why they are ignoring everything that has been said before.”
“That’s a helpful filter,” Paul said. “And then I add another one. Ezra observed the law. He did what it said. He kept the practices. Not only was his heart involved, and his head, he made his body part of his life. So that by the time he got to teaching, he had complete credibility.”
“So don’t take marathon training advice from a person who only runs 5Ks?” Tim said.
Paul nodded. “Assuming that the person has the capacity to run, that’s exactly right. And they don’t have to run fast, if what they are teaching you is how to complete a marathon. But I always pay more attention to the whole life of someone who is telling me how to live mine.”
And while Tim was trying to make sense of that sentence, Paul started to move ahead.
“Have a great weekend,” Paul said. “Don’t forget your long run.”
Tim waved. “So should I trust you? Just because you run faster than me?”
“Ask me Monday,” Paul said.