Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Finishing the race

I finished my first 1/2 marathon on May 5th. It was the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in Indianapolis, which is the largest half-marathon in the country with over 35,000 runners. I finished in the middle of the mob, not the fastest, but neither was I among the very slowest. But when you run for over two hours (again, I was not among the fleet of foot!), you get a lot of time to think. Some random thoughts:
  1.  It's not an accident that running is used as a metaphor for the Christian life. Both are marked by pain, trials, training, and being pushed beyond what you think you can endure. Both are also battles which are primarily fought in your mind even more than in your body. Moreover, there is great reward and a sense of godly pride (if such a thing exists!) which characterizes finishing well (1 Cor. 9:24; Heb. 12:1). And finally, there is extra baggage which must be shed to run well, a bit more 'round the middle physically, and a lot more in my heart spiritually.
  2. Success or failure for most of us doesn't come down to who came across the line first, but who came across the line still hittin' it. I'll never be a slim-hipped Kenyan who jogs across in just over an hour breathing about as hard as a me watching Swamp People on my couch. If I work really hard and get a whole lot sleeker (say 40 lbs. or so), I might get to where I could finish in 1:40. Likewise, from a spiritual perspective, I'd say I'm not a five talent pastor, but probably a two talent guy on my best days (Matt. 25:14-30). Recognizing that, I'm going to do my best to earn the Master a good return while not being envious of those to whom He has entrusted more since I don't have more for the same reason my running isn't not sponsored by Nike: lack of capability.
  3. There is value in learning to say "No" to what your body desires. Just before the race, I visted by GI doc, who told me that my liver enzymes and blood pressure are down, my kidney function is up, and he didn't need to see me again for 6 months. As a Crohn's patient, finding out that my health has turned around is nothing short of miraculous. Yet even now, many times when I am running, I want nothing so much as to quit. But quitting does not help me become a more healthy person. In the same way, indulging every desire we have does not help us become more spiritually healthy. In fact, it does the opposite, plunging us further into slavery and death.

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