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I took up “running” after age 50, mostly because I don’t like exercising. I wanted a way to work up a health-enhancing sweat in as little time as possible. Get it over with quickly, was the idea.

I call it “running” because I putt along slowly and I cover only a couple measly miles. Don’t imagine me pounding out miles as the scenery scrolls by. In order to avoid injury to my middle-aged bones and joints, I run on the treadmill in the pleasantly climate-controlled fitness center at the college. I do not think it’s possible to run in a wimpier way.

Much to my surprise, though, I’ve found that I like running. I like feeling stronger. I like slowly inching toward my teeny-tiny goals. I like the way I feel when I’m finished.

I’ve even gotten over my initial self-consciousness about puffing and sweating in public at the college fitness center, which is frequented by distinguished colleagues and—worse—undergraduates in the physical prime of their lives. Normally when I encounter colleagues and students, I attempt to look somewhat professional and poised. This is out of the question at the fitness center, with my hair pulled back in a hair band, my unshaven legs exposed, my body tightly clad in mismatched, vaguely odiferous workout clothes that I didn’t bother to wash since the last time. Inevitably, there will be a student I know working at the desk (“Hey, Katie.”), or a couple weight-lifting bros from my world lit class (“Hey, Matt.”), and probably some dean or other on an elliptical (“Hey, David.”).

You know what? I don’t care. No one cares. We’re doing an important thing together, and everybody knows this requires vulnerability, and we’ve all agreed to sweat without shame toward a higher goal.

I’ve blogged for the The Twelve for seven full years now, and I’ve often thought of it as a writing workout. It has become a routine that I value highly, even when it’s hard. Similar to my “running” habit, writing for The Twelve requires self-discipline and perseverance. It definitely requires sweating in public. I imagine my fellow Twelvers know what I mean.

But this week, as we engage in our annual fund drive, I’ve been thinking about our whole community of writers and readers, imagining how this blog creates a “thought workout” for all of us. Maybe our renewed identity as the Reformed Journal is like a big fitness center where we all exercise Reformed thinking together.

Maybe The Twelve is our basic, daily thought-workout, Reformed style. Some days we perform more gracefully than others, some days we’re sore and tired, some days we’re full of vitality. But we keep at it for the sake of higher goals. It’s good that we sweat here—that’s what makes us stronger. And it’s good that we’re willing to be vulnerable with each other—that’s what makes us a community.

So thank you to all the readers and writers willing to “work out” together in this space. Thanks for agreeing that we can all look scruffy here. Thanks for the way we urge each other to clearer thinking and deeper, more Christ-like witness—and a little edgy fun, too.

Another thing I like about running is that it’s relatively cheap. But once in a while you do need to invest a little money to do it right, maybe for a great pair of running shoes.

If you appreciate working out here at The Twelve, would you consider investing a little to help us sustain this space? Many thanks for being a vital part of this community, and thanks for all your support.

Click on the box above to donate, or use the blue Donate box in the upper right-hand corner. It is there everyday.
Checks may be sent to Reformed Journal, PO Box 441130 #94102, Detroit, MI 48244-1130.
Thank you very much!

Debra Rienstra

I am a writer and literature professor, teaching literature and creative writing at Calvin University, where I have been on the faculty since 1996. Born and bred in the Reformed tradition, I’ve been unable to resist writing four books about theological topics: beware the writer doing theology without a license. My most recent book is Refugia Faith: Seeking Hidden Shelters, Ordinary Wonders, and the Healing of the Earth (Fortress, 2022). Besides the books, I’ve written well over two hundred essays for the RJ blog as well as numerous articles, poems, and reviews in popular and scholarly contexts. I have a B.A. from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers. I am married to Rev. Dr. Ron Rienstra, and together we have three grown children. Besides reading and writing, I love classical music, science fiction, fussing in the yard, hiking, and teaching myself useful skills like plant identification and—maybe someday—drywall repair.

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