Running the Race

I’ve been really liking the picture of running, striving, pressing on towards the goal, full of the joy of Christ Jesus. I’ve also been really liking The Gray Havens music lately. And Mike Winger videos.

One particular song from The Gray Havens fills my imagination with swirling scenes. I think of the bursts of light, the tiny glimpses through the darkness of a beauty yet to come. I think of throwing off my burdens, running with all my might. I think of longing, deep longing, to know the Light, and to see what is to come. Amidst so much darkness, and I mean so much darkness, every glimmer of light matters. Oh with what joy do I await the dawn!

Now I’m just waiting for the day // In the shadows of the dawn

But I won’t wait resting my bones // I’ll take these foolishness roads of grace // And run toward the dawn

And when I rise// And dawn turns to day // I’ll shine out as bright as the sun // And these roads that I’ve run will be wise.

-“Shadows of the Dawn” by The Gray Havens

I’ve always loved Psalm 19 and its story of God’s word shown throughout creation, echoing in truth, pure and beautiful in everything. I also love the picture of the strength contained in their beauty, when the psalmist describes the voice of the heavens going “out into all the earth” and God pitching “a tent for the sun,” with the sun “like a champion rejoicing to run his course.”

“The heavens declare the glory of God…they use no words, yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.”

-Psalm 19:1,3-6 (NIV)

As painful as I often find running in reality, I’ve never thought of running as drudgery. I think of freedom, joy, and peace; not in desperately running away, but in joyfully running towards the end, the result, the upward call. More like the final race of an athlete than the painstaking training it takes to become one.

I don’t know where that picture fits in with my everyday life. Like pretty much everything in life, I’m still figuring it out. But I do know I want to run.

Maybe it’s a reckless desire for a meaning. Maybe it’s a passion to devote everything. Maybe it’s a longing for freedom from the entanglements that drag me down. Maybe it’s because in peaceful moments like this, when I’m waiting on the Lord, strength I never knew fills my heart. Maybe it’s because I am still growing in patience and often fail to see the meaning in day-by-day toil.

But day-by-day toil is running. It’s all about where my eyes are—set on the course in front of me, set on Jesus the founder and perfecter of my faith.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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 12:1-2 (ESV)

Frustration: both an emotion I feel at the entanglements that surround me and an entanglement in of itself. So many things cling to me, and oh how closely they cling!

Shame, frustration, distractions, irritations: they are everywhere. But I am not alone, for Jesus himself endured the cross and “despised the shame”.

And there’s the joy again. It is interesting to me that it says for us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” and that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him.” There’s that joy, that freedom, of not just letting go, but “laying aside” the weights and sins that cling so closely, and running.

“All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

-Hebrews 12:11-14 (NASB1995)

I want to run, but I feel I have not been fully trained. Without strengthening my hands and my feet I am indeed in danger of putting it all out of joint. Discipline is painful. If I am honest I would rather not pursue peace with everyone. I want perfection, but I do not want to be sanctified, because it is painful.

But to run, I must train.

I must strengthen what is weak if I am to yield the fruit of righteousness. Laying aside my entanglements is not just a reckless letting go of everything. It is a day-by-day submission to God’s sanctification, it is seeking out the straight paths, walking in the pattern of the founder and perfecter of our faith: Jesus.

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

-Philippians 3:12-14 (NASB1995)

I lay aside my entanglements and lay hold of the joy set before me. I want to press on, I want to run.

Sometimes I wonder if I really understand what “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” means. Still, it inspires a deep desire to keep going, to breath in deeply and run towards the dawn.

In a recent Mike Winger Q &A video I watched, someone asked how to gain a godlier perspective in a very blessed life (here). In other words, how to not complain in a 1st world country. I was very convicted.

I get so stuck on every little inconvenience and annoyance. I am so bad at forgetting what lies behind and am often guilty of “keeping a record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13:5). I need Paul’s exhortation to press on and reach forward to what lies ahead.

I don’t know much about running. I’ve never done track, cross-country or anything like that. I haven’t the slightest clue how fast I can run a mile.

But when it comes to my spiritual walk with God, I want to press on and lay aside with joy everything that keeps me back. I truly want to run.

%d bloggers like this: