And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12
God who goes first and God who empowers, forgive our tendency to shrink back. Give us courage to risk uncertainty and run the race marked out for us. Amen
This week’s evening drop series is dedicated to the biology and spirituality of movement. Why does walking make us feel so good? What does it mean to “walk by faith?” And tonight, I want to celebrate the strength of runners.
There is a certain bravery needed for running, which doesn’t apply to walking. Running will bring you to places of depletion, pain and self-doubt. Sometimes we enter these states during a single run; other times they come to us over the course of a season. If you’re a runner you know what it’s like to wake up with shin splints or be furloughed by a stress fracture. These setbacks occur in the spiritual journey as well as the running life.
I’ve already confessed that I prefer to walk. Walking is enjoyable for me. I also enjoy trusting God and opting out of the rat race and competition of modern life. My fantasy is to walk the contemplative journey companioned by God and other enlightened people. But the life of faith is rarely that way, because there are relational heartbreaks, vocational train wrecks and financial ruins to deal with. You can’t opt out of running with the bulls, or running from the bears—even if you’re a spiritual advisor, a yogi master or a well-set retiree.
Life is dangerous, and sometimes we must run. Life is also exhilarating, and sometimes God invites you to pick up the pace and run headlong into the face of uncertainty. This is faith.
In the Daring Way™ we talk about knowing our arena—being clear about the setting where we are called to show up, be seen and live bravely with our lives. During the Covid-19 crisis people are showing up in the arenas of parenting, neighboring and laboring. We work from home or we go to work in healthcare, grocery stores and meat packing plants. People are running hard into the arena of businesses and leadership—meeting payroll, forgiving rents-due, making tough decisions, keeping supply lines open, reorganizing for mission. My daughter Anne will give birth to my first grandchild during a plague. Many women are giving birth in an era of social distancing, with limited physical support. Many people have entered the arena of death, separated from their loved ones.
I’m sorry this Spring is not a walk in the park. The cherry blossoms are in bloom, but we’re not there the breathe them in. Whatever race you are running, Christ-in-you is REAL strength. A good spiritual practice is to name your “arena” or your “race.” Take a Post-It note and write, “My arena is ________.” Or, “I am running the race of ___________.” Put that Post-It where you will see it several times a day.
There are no guarantees about the race, and we will always be uncertain of the outcome. Faith means showing up and running anyway. You may not know where the race will lead you and what will happen along the way, but you are on the right track.
Every morning I jog out of my driveway and run at least two blocks before walking downhill to the river. I’d like to become a real runner, but currently I’m a walker who occasionally jogs. I’m waiting for running to become enjoyable, but I have my doubts about that ever happening.