Lenya in Ephesus beside Nike sculpture
Driving along Rio Grande, on the way to church this morning, I witnessed the final stragglers push through the last mile of the New Mexico Marathon. Some still ran, others managed to race walk, and a few drew fresh energy from road-side encouragers. But others looked like they’d barely limp across the finish line. The scene jogged this thought, “The race of faith isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon!” After nearly 70 days battling this illness, I feel tired. I’ve been a trooper muscling my way through surgery, CT scans, and gruesome procedures. I’ve hurdled past chemo, hair loss, and nausea. But about now, with four more treatments to go, I'd like to be done. I don’t want all the attention or the slow speed of recoup and recovery. I know that others have suffered longer and deeper. I’m fully aware that God knows my dusty frame and exactly how much it can take. But sometimes trials seem to linger just a little too long. After you round one corner, another curve takes its place. “Hey, who keeps moving the finish line?”
Perhaps living “life at the speed of Internet” breeds impatience. If something doesn’t happen instantly, then it’s a nanosecond too long. Think of it, in just one decade we abandoned snail mail for email. And now that’s too slow. Today, we text and twitter in real time with a lexicon of abbreviated phrases instead of grammatical sentences. There’s no need to drive to the local library to research on the micro-fiche scanning endless films to find your data. Now, from the convenience of your own home, just tip tap your way to Google to retrieve exhaustive and instant results.
FYI, the Bible doesn’t offer short-cuts, abbreviations, or a face-track to faith. The writer of Hebrews coaches us to, “run with endurance the race that God has set before us” (Heb. 12:1). Emphasis lies upon the word “endurance.” It describes both the mileage as well as the mind-set the runner must achieve. The Greek translation means patience, continuance, or waiting; implying a great distance. However, endurance can also be interpreted as cheerful or hopeful; describing a godly attitude. For Christians our journey should be long and light-hearted.
I’ve drawn inspiration from Bill Broadhurst who entered the Pepsi Challenge 10K race in Omaha, Nebraska. Ten years prior his left side became paralyzed after an aneurysm damaged his brain. One July morning he joined 1,200 lithe-looking runners at the starting line. The crowd lurched at the gun shot start. Bill threws his stiff left leg forward, pivoted on it as his right foot hit the ground. His slow plop-plop-plop rhythm seemed to mock him as the pack faded into the distance. Sweat rolled down his face, pain pierced his ankle, but he kept going. Six miles and two hours and twenty-nine minutes later, Bill reached the finish line. A man approached him from a small group of bystanders. It was Bill Rodgers, the famous marathon runner and winner of this particular race. “Here,” says Rodgers, putting his medal around Bill’s neck, “You’ve worked harder for this than I have.”
So know I must learn how to plod when all my life I’ve plowed. It’s not about the dash but the distance. You might say that I’m in training for the big one. Sure I may have a couple of 5Ks or 10Ks under my belt. But life is a marathon. I’m assured that once “I have finished the race…there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).