Twelve years ago I ran the PF Chang Rock n’ Roll half marathon in Phoenix. I trained for it and felt pretty good till I hit the seventh mile. Mile seven to mile 13.5 felt like my legs were made of lead and my lungs were full of fire. I yelled at myself for that last half of the race, “Just run to that pole Sheila!” And that’s how I finished. I literally ran to the next pole until it was over. And then I swore I’d never do it again.
As a Christian, I see life differently than my friends and family who don’t share my hope in Christ (yet). I see life as a marathon of faith.
Sometimes I look around and see people coasting through life, seeming to be happy, doing just fine. They don’t look tired. They don’t seem to be struggling. They seem to be at home here. At least on the surface.
If any of us, Christian or not, stopped to think about our lives, where we’re going, what our purpose is here, etc., we might not be so comfortable. But once you’ve tasted the goodness of God in Christ, a race begins that leaves no place for settling down and getting comfortable. You aren’t searching anymore for a deeper satisfaction in life, or numbing yourself to those longings with quick fixes or busy-ness. Once Christ becomes real to you, you start to long for the home and the person you were made for. You become a sojourner, an exile, a runner, running the race of faith until you cross the finish line- until you’re home.
In a few hours a new mile starts on my long race of faith. 2019 isn’t a new year to try to finally get some satisfaction in life, be a better me, live my best life, etc. 2019 is another mile in my race home. What I need is endurance.
And if you’re feeling tired like me, just look at the next pole.
Just keep running through today.
Keep your eyes on Jesus; keep feeding your soul with his word; keep meeting with his people and opening your life up to them in confession and repentance; keep pouring out your complaints and requests and fears and longings and joys to him in prayer. Keep hoping in Jesus. He is faithful. He will not let you quit. He will not abandon you. In fact he’ll make you stronger. He’ll take what’s lame in your cadence and strengthen it. He is fully committed to getting you home.
One of my favorite writings by Eugene Peterson is Long Obedience in the Same Direction. In it he uses the Songs of Ascent (Psalm 120 – 134) to meditate on discipleship and what a maturing life of faith in Christ focuses on. The ancient Hebrews sung these songs on their trips to Jerusalem. As a Christian, I’m not making my way to a physical place to worship, but I am making my way through life, ascending, growing, being transformed from one degree of glory to greater glory until I’m home. And like my forefathers in ancient Israel, it’s my longing for home, that pulls me forward with a song on my lips.
Yesterday at my church we had a pastor who preached about what’s next. Now that Christmas is over, what’s next? New year’s goals or resolutions might improve our lives, he said, but they won’t transform our lives. He said if we really believe what we just celebrated at Christmas our lives should start to, and continue to, look different. We’re in the process of being transformed.
Eugene Peterson encouraged us to examine ourselves and see if we were tourists or pilgrims. The pastor last night asked us to consider that if we believe Jesus our lives will be in the process of looking more and more like Jesus. Hebrews says we don’t need resolutions, we need endurance.
I want there to be a fresh start, a new energy, a renewing of sorts as 2019 begins. But I know that even if nothing changes in my circumstances, even if I’m still prone to lameness, weakness and wandering, Jesus is committed to getting me home. I don’t have to finish tomorrow. I just have to keep looking at him, running through today.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. -2 Corinthians 3:18
…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. -Hebrews 12:2
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. -Philippians 1:6