This morning two things happened. The first was that I read 1 & 2 Timothy, in which Paul claims that he has fought the good fight, finished the course, and kept the faith (2T 4:7). The second was that I went for a run. These two things are not inherently related, but I discovered that the former can continuously affect the latter and the latter can continuously inform the former.
You see, the arch support in my sneakers has been worn to nothing, and until I get new kicks, running takes its toll on my right knee (I believe I am developing or have developed slight ITBS). The first mile I was fine, but the impact on my knee by mile two was pretty rough. I had purposed to complete the two-mile run as soon as I left my driveway, and by the 1.75 mi. point, I had a choice: walk the last quarter or fight through the pain and finish. I did the latter, but only after a moment of reflection, wherein I decided that completing what I had set out to do (run for a full 2 miles) was worth whatever pain I must endure to do so.
At the two mile mark, the pain in my knee swelled, and I was approx. a half mile from the house. I considered pushing though the pain further and completing the last portion as a run, but I recognized that unnecessary continued strain beyond my goal would likely result in injury given the pain I was feeling. So, I slowed to a brisk walk as fast as I could muster with light steps so as not to pound the pavement and feel the reverb on my joint.
So, what does this have to do the Scripture reading from the morning? Well, when I made the decision to complete that second mile, I remembered Paul's admonition to Timothy, to complete his course just as his mentor, the apostle, had (2T 4:1-6). I thought of the fact that I had decided on a distance, and I had to finish, because that's how integrity and character manifest themselves in the small things. A person says, "I will do x,y, and z" and they do so, even if the "z" in that list is difficult.
But then I thought about how the running informs the spiritual race in which I find myself. As a believer, I strive toward radical love and obedience to God due to adoration for Christ. I believe that this is the only rational response to the person of Jesus and the gift of salvation; therefore, I do it. And doing so is hard. It hurts. Chronic pains rise to the surface of consciousness when I love without receiving benefit or reach out to people only to face rejection. Some days I want to say, "I cannot endure this anymore. I cannot take another step of loving action or further proactive pursuit of purity."
But then I can consider my run, and I remember...I know what it means when the pain hits during the race. I know the hardship of wanting to quit. But I also know the joy in demanding of oneself all that one can give. I know the value of enduring hardship until the goal is reached. And I endure. Or at least try to. I fail plenty, to be sure, but when I think of my Christian walk in this way, that next step of love becomes that much easier, despite the pain that accompanies it, because the end of my life where Christ awaits is worth the pain whilst running toward him. More often than not, he actually comes onto the course next me and carries through the steps I can not take on my own.
This is why I love my faith the way that I do. The vibrant nature of the Spirit's revealing truth is so endearing and wonderful. I had no expectation of examining this mindset when I awoke this morning. Even after I read the Scriptures, I knew not how they would manifest themselves in my life, and when I ran, I had no intention of tying my pain in that experience back to my spiritual life. But this is how the Lord works. This is how he teaches us. What a good Lord we have!
Thanks for reading,