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Interview with Austen Hardwick on the inspiration behind his book Ever Present

Interview with Austen Hardwick on the inspiration behind his book Ever Present
'Being a Christian is an invitation to run towards God.'
 
After surviving three strokes and two brain surgeries in his forties, Austen Hardwick began to think more deeply about life and faith. As he started to recover, he realised that running created space in which he could draw closer to God. Weaving together personal testimony and biblical teaching, Austen encourages us to run towards God, so that we, too, can learn to live life in all its fullness with an ever-present God who is with us in our struggles. Ever Present explores how running can be good for both the heart and the soul.
 
Austen, is this book just for Christians  who love running?
I hope that Ever Present can find its way into varied audiences, potentially encouraging athletes to find a level of spirituality in their activity or for anyone with a seed of faith to start valuing their bodies and growing closer to God at the same time. You don’t have to love running to read it, because the elements of medical recovery in themselves could provide inspiration for somebody going through difficult times.
 
Why do you love running?
Physically, I love pushing myself, seeing what my body can do and knowing that it still works! Spiritually, running gives me two contexts in which God appears to speak; time alone (which for me takes a lot of discipline to create) and time amongst large groups of people. I find myself feeling fully alive through running.
 
Why do you think the metaphor of running is so important to our understanding  of faith?
Running involves discipline, training and pain but there is also euphoria; there are hills and valleys, injuries and new friendships, isolation and new relationships born during exercise. What can sometimes feel like routine is also highly creative in terms of personal outlook and wellbeing. These wonderful contrasts provide me with a metaphor of the Christian life, which requires true determination particularly in a society where to have a faith may be regarded as a weakness. Being a Christian is an invitation to run towards God, whilst remaining aware that the race ahead will encompass  a spectrum of fulfilments and challenges.
 
Why do you talk about a religious ‘Tempro line’? 
The blue ‘Tempro line’ painted on the road marks the shortest route around the London Marathon. As a Christian, I’m always looking for the ‘Tempro line’ which is neither the easiest route nor the most restrictive, but a reminder of God’s gracious character revealed in Christ, guiding my choices as I take my place within society.
 
You refer to the triangle of faith, love and hope– why is this so important to you?
Paul’s words in Corinthians formed the perfect triangle upon which to base Ever Present because there were three elements to the story I wanted to tell. ‘Love’ represented my fascination with running, ‘Hope’ became real through my experience of remaining positive through three strokes and two brain surgeries and ‘Faith’ pointed towards my faith development, in particular enabling me to address how ‘fullness of life’ can be misrepresented within Christianity and was increasingly at odds with my own experience. I thought a lot about these elements, and emerged knowing an everpresent God more deeply.
 
How has your illness changed your outlook on faith and life?
Life is to be seized and lived! Illness brings great clarity because it removes certain filters from our conversations and thought processes. I believe that I have been treated to some small clarity about the mystery of God, who instead of avoiding suffering, walks towards it with us and can transform it into something wonderful.
 
What do you hope people will take away from reading your book?
Encouragement! My priority for the book is to communicate that God is not confined to church walls, but that he is ever present regardless of your circumstances. For me, he is uniquely manifest in the person of Jesus Christ, who gifted us the story of the running Father; a God who takes the love initiative and forever runs towards us. If the book serves as an introduction to a real Christianity lived out in the real world, or simply provides inspiration through the example of the London Marathon runners, I hope it encourages the reader to take the next step, be it praying their first prayer or going for their first run.
 
Austen Hardwick is a teacher, writer and musician with a growing belief that God can be found beyond the walls of the church through the simple act of running. Married to Helen, they have two teenage children who help him to play the blues.
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