‘When I Run, I Feel God’s Joy'

By Rev. Dr Katherine Rainger, Senior Chaplain

The upcoming Cross Country Carnival (Wednesday, 10 May) reminds me of Olympic runner and missionary Eric Liddell. His story was captured in the film Chariots of Fire, famous for the iconic opening scene of the team undertaking a training run on the beach, with the compelling musical score seeming to propel the runners forward.

In one scene, Eric is being chastised by his sister for giving too much attention to his running at the expense of his responsibilities towards God. He responds, “I believe that God made me for a purpose. But he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure.”

Secondary School students laughing while running in the Athletics Carnival in March.

Tommy Grimm reflects on this scene and contrasts Eric’s experience with the experience many of us have when it comes to exercise i.e., not much fun!

Grimm then makes the point that it was in the act of running that joy was found, rather than in an edict to exercise. He concludes with the challenge to find ways that exercise can be fun to increase enjoyment and motivation. As Mary Poppins says, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job's a game.”

Students find joy while taking on new challenges at Year 7 Camp.

My years as a beginning teacher were shaped by William Glasser’s Choice Theory as this was the guiding framework of my first school. Glasser reminds us that fun is a necessary part of life. Glasser identifies five basic needs, including fun, that we aim to fulfil through our actions and behaviours.

  • Survival: This is a physiological need encompassing everything you need to sustain life, such as health, shelter and nourishment. The psychological component to this need involves feeling safe and secure.
  • Power: This need involves the desire to matter, make a difference, achieve and be competent, recognised and respected. It includes self-esteem and a desire to leave a legacy.
  • Freedom: The need for freedom is about having choices, being independent and autonomous. Freedom is about being able to move freely without restriction. Creativity is a part of this need, too.
  • Fun and enjoyment: All humans have a basic need to have fun and seek enjoyment in what they do. Enjoyment can also be the reward of learning new things. We seek enjoyment through hobbies and leisure activities, but we are also driven by a need to enjoy our work.
  • Love and belonging: The need for love and belonging includes the drive to be connected with others, such as friends, family, partners, co-workers, pets and the groups we affiliate with.

Glasser’s five needs can be a helpful framework for identifying within ourselves, and within the children and young people with whom we engage, how to meet these needs in healthy and life-giving ways. We can ask ourselves, which basic need requires attention at this time and how might I go about doing that?

Joshua, Charles, Tristan and William having fun while performing in the Junior School Easter Service.

A lens of faith can be integrated with Glasser’s five basic needs. Jesus says, “I have come that they may have love, and have it to the full (John 10:10)." God is the creator of life and has given us an abundance of what we need and the imperative to ensure that everyone has enough. God has given each of us gifts to develop, the capacity to love and be loved, and the revelation of God as the source of love. Freedom to experience life in all its fullness and freedom from oppression and fear are central tenets of the Christian life. So too is fun as we enjoy the goodness found in the world around us. Children are great teachers as to what incidental fun looks like.

None of these needs are met in isolation from each other. Nor are they met as isolated individuals. For example, the need for survival in terms of housing affordability and access to essentials such as food, education and healthcare require a significant response from governments and non-government agencies such as Anglicare.

Students performing in the Guys and Dolls musical.

While I was in the audience at the Radford musical Guys and Dolls recently, I could sense the fun the cast and crew were having, along with the hard work and sense of achievement that was part of it. This video shows a community action that was designed to inject fun into daily life. I wonder what it might inspire for you?