I turned on the TV last week and they were interviewing someone expected to place well in the 2016 Boston Marathon. I had never heard of this particular athlete, but I thought,”what a champ!” It was only April of 2013, three short years since those wretched, muslim brothers, punk Chechen refugees America had taken in ,who put together a couple of pressure cooker bombs and blew another hole in the fabric of American life. Two homemade bombs made by creeps who hate us, in the space of a few minutes ended the life of 3 innocents, injured 264 folks and drove home the idea (again) that being in a big crowd is a risk, attending a concert or a cheering runners at a Marathon finish line could tragically put you or your family in harm’s way.
We could spend many hours discussing lessons learned or not learned from 9-11, or the Boston Marathon or more recent, similar incidents. We as a nation should become much more wise about immigration policy, we should become more savvy about the roots and actual content of Islamic teachings concerning anyone who is not a follower. However, rather than become bogged down in motives, and political gobbledygook, I prefer to concentrate on the flip side: the response. The Boston Marathon folks didn’t cave in to the palpable fear. They never stopped holding the race. They got wiser, more watchful and ramped up security but they never stopped running. And people signed up and came back the very next year. Bravo. Like the Boston Tea Party, an excellent metaphor for American Spirit.
I never ran a marathon, I never ran a 5K. In my younger days, high school and college, I never participated in track events but I liked to run. For me it was always a solitary effort I could mold to my own timetable, set my own pace and spend time thinking. It wasn’t a thing of beauty, I was never a contender for the Olympic team…but I was out there. I liked the hot Dallas wind in my face, the slam of one foot in front of the other as I made my way around the streets in my neighborhood after school. I quit running after I had kids, the logistics were tricky to overcome and I found other ways to get some exercise. To me, those memories of running are always linked to the carefree days of childhood where gallons of energetic joy propelled me and my friends to always move as fast as we could. top speed on bicycles, rollerskates, the occasional runaway wagon. Oftentimes, bare feet on sizzling pavement motivated us to move more quickly to our next neighborhood adventure. It represents easier times. Running represents Freedom!
I salute the marathon contestants who swallowed the fear last week on April 19th. They overcame the memory of horror and choked the streets of Boston scrambling to find their pace in the multitude. I also salute the lover’s of the race, Boston Strong, who ignored their unease and turned out to line the route, cheering those runners on.
Paul likens the Christian life to a runners race. He also tells us we may face terrorism. Satan’s calling card. Be prepared for that. That’s why it’s called Spiritual Warfare! We are going to have good days. We are going to have really bad days. Occasionally we will trip on a curb or catch our toe in a hole and we may faceplant in spectacular fashion. That’s OK, you weren’t chosen for this team because you were a gazelle. You were chosen for this team because you want to be FREE rather than in bondage. Get up and keep moving forward. Inevitably you pull a muscle and may be out of the game for a while. Sometimes the weather will be dreadful and the race delayed.
Occasionally, someone on your own team will shove you off the track. Get over it! Maintain focus. Some fear being asked technical or even sarcastic questions to which they don’t know the answer. Just tell people your story- how you became a runner. That keeps it simple and real. You see, those who believe they will never be “good or scholarly” enough to speak up for our faith are consigned to the sidelines. These folks, though they wear the runner’s suit are always stretching but, choosing fear over power, never hit the bricks. In those times, just tell people your personal running story- how and where you were when you jumped into this race – that keeps it real. It’s always good to keep training and learning so you improve- but it is not supposed to be tricky or hard. It’s just a race with Jesus. A race to Freedom. Knowing where your race will end and helping others to see the value of that finish line is the goal.
Thankfully, we don’t have to be perfect or the most knowledgeable, smooth or eloquent to be on this team. We just have to start. We have to be willing to tie on the running shoes every day, put one foot in front of the other- regardless of proficiency or stopwatch- and join that race, following where the Holy Spirit leads. Shove your fear, your hesitation or excuses out of the way and Run Anyway!
Verses to ponder upon: 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1-3; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 2 Tim.1:7; Ephesians 6:12; John 8:36, Galatians 5:1