My granddaughter went out for track at her school. She wanted to be on a team, do a sport, but she did not want to run. We all laughed about that, but she worked it out to do shot put. She is a thin, petite girl and I can only imagine her trying to catapult that shot a few feet. But she is happy and she does not have to run.
We often think that the life of a Christian is a race, running hard, sweating profusely to make it. I have found it to be more of an endurance race. It is more of a Marathon, but you do not have to finish first, just finish.
Brennan Manning, in his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, says it like you are on the football field and you are struggling and it feels like you are losing and suddenly the referee calls the game and declares you the winner. You did not earn it, you fought valiantly, but felt like you were losing. How did that happen?
I think I naively thought I could reach a place where I would live above the problems, I would have victory with years of maturity. Somehow I thought the older saints had it all together and nothing would shake them or challenge them. (Maybe I am not old enough yet) I have not reached that place of being on top of it. I have pretty much come to the conclusion that there is no place like that on this side of glory.
I think my granddaughter is right. Why run? Running is exhausting, necessary at times, but it is not the way to really succeed in the Christian life.
I remember how people would encourage us to press into God. I can tell you that no amount of pressing will make God allow you any closer to Him than He wants you to be. The illusion that He can be attained by force will lead you to disillusionment. Religion may give you a set of disciplines to follow and the disciplines may only make you religious and not any closer to God.
This life with God is eternal. He is not a mountain to climb and plant your flag. He is not one who is fully knowable. Someone said that the Seraphim have been crying “holy, holy, holy,” for eternity and do not tire of it because they see new facets of God constantly as they surround the throne.
God is not a discipline to be learned. He is not codified in a manual. He is a living, life giving God.
I have learned that life has its challenges in every phase. The understandings of a twenty year old are far different than a forty year old. Each decade offers its trials, its confrontations, its mountains. We never seem to come to the place that there is not something different to stand in our way and require us to conquer it.
It really is not a sprint, but a long walk with God. Paul uses the analogy of a race which indicates there is a course, a track, a way, but it is he who endures to the end. Maybe this Christian life is more like a steeplechase than a neat, lined track. We have many more obstacles to overcome in this race. We are contested every step of the way. We run through rivers, bogs, up mountains, across deserts, hurdle obstacles thrown in our path; it is a long term battle to finish the race.
Those who try to run too fast exhaust themselves with the effort only to find they did not accomplish much. Like one busy Christian said, “I am working like the devil for the Lord.” Many times we are creating more activity and dust than we are progress. Another observation made by many Christian workers and pastors is that the ministry is not a place to have closeness to God and spend hours in his presence. Most observe that the ministry gets in the way of that pursuit and the busyness of ministry robs them of their intimacy with the Lord. So, running fast does not get the job done.
I have found that slow and steady works, but there are the times you are prompted by the Holy Spirit and you need to run. Slow may indicate lethargy rather than determination. It really comes down to a life with the Lord that includes times of intensity and times of dryness, times of slow pace and others of fast pace. One thing is for sure, it is not dull.
In this world we will always have tribulations of some sort. It is the nature of life. If you care, if you have family, if you associate with friends, if you have a job, you will have times of difficulty. Those looking for perfection and no trouble will be troubled by the fact that they cannot get there. Some of Christian theology, at least, popular theology, wants to paint a picture of the ideal, peaceful life, no troubles, good family, good job, popular, material needs met and abundance. When, in truth, the race is won by those who are overcomers, maybe slow, maybe not the best runners, or even those who just walk because they do not like to run. To finish is the goal.