26 Mar Run to Love
“I’m going to run to Love, I’m going to run to Love, into the arms of my Father. And like a child who knows, my Father loves me so, I’m going to run, I’m going to run to Love.”
Whenever I see a 400 meter outdoor track, I start to feel a little queasy. It’s been over 10 years since I ran my last 400, but every spring the smell of freshly cut grass brings me straight back to the starting blocks, the tightness in my belly, the fluttering thoughts of “Why-did-I-do-this-to myself-I’m-quitting-next-year-it’s-too-late-to-save-myself” and BOOM!
The sound of gunfire fades immediately as my mind tunes out everything but the image of a finish line. The painful discipline of weeks of pushing my body and mind to the max in practice, allows me to drift into autopilot as I pass competitor after competitor and push harder and faster around the track until I reach the final curve. At this point, I make a conscious choice to defy the limits of my body blaring through my mind and run even faster, past Jello, wobbly legs, past the inability to breathe, past the remaining opponents standing in the gap between me and my gold medal, reminding myself when I want to collapse in my lane that is just 1 minute long. Just 60 seconds of pain. And the satisfaction of crossing that line first and laying sole claim to the glimmering medallion on the top of the podium drives the madness to continue the sport meet after meet, year after year.
I don’t think I would ever join track again, but the lessons it taught me about the value of discipline have remained vividly with me in life since. Pastor Ken’s (PK) sermon on the principles of studying scripture and waiting on the Lord, while not directly about discipline, caused me to reflect on the link between endurance and reward.
Starting off with the verse “Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD” (Psalm 27:14 NLT), PK dove into the importance of spending both quantity, as well as quality, of intentional and one-on-one time with the Lord in His Word. He steered us through the principles of “Don’t pluck, get stuck”, or being careful not to take individual scriptures out of context but to read passages fully to extract the whole message of the author. Then he encouraged us to “Ask for ID” or to be mindful of the genre of writing, whether poetry, narrative, law, etc. and not assume every account should be applied literally, since the Bible contains a great deal of metaphorical imagery as well as plenty accounts of people not following God. Next, we learned to “Interrogate the passage”, digging into the context of a section of scripture and pondering how characters might have been feeling, what relationships between characters were like, in which order events occurred, how actions affected outcomes, etc. Finally, he taught to “Pull the thread and use your tools”, or study the scriptures topically, and find multiple references to the same subject, like faith or leadership, to see what the overarching themes of the Word are regarding that topic.
The sermon focused on practical application of scripture-study, but I keep going back to the kick-off verse, “Wait patiently for the Lord…” and in that context the sermon felt more to me like a strength-building assignment, as though Pastor Ken were a track coach, giving me a work-out regime to prepare me for the next meet. It’s so easy to want to take short-cuts in life and spiritual life is no exception. When I’m struggling or suffering, I jump to asking for prayer from someone, listening to praise music, or even re-playing a favorite sermon—thinking these things will quickly and efficiently fill my empty, thirsty soul. And while good things, they cannot replace the discipline, nor the reward, of coming vulnerably before the Lord myself, meditating on His Word, and listening for His often still, small voice. But it is only in these precious moments alone with Him that I have found the deep healing and life that I was so hungry for and that no second-hand faith had the ability to produce.
I think it’s a general principle of life that rewards are linked to discipline. It is just the means by which all valuable things are obtained and maintained. You can’t expect to win a worthwhile race without continuous strengthening of your heart, mind, and muscles. And you can’t overcome the often intense struggles and suffering that life throws without a continuous strengthening of your heart, mind, and spiritual muscles through devouring the Word of God and the discipline of waiting patiently before Him.
It can be hard, at first, but if you just once “taste and see that the Lord is good”, you’ll begin to understand what drives the madness of passionate believers to seek the Lord day after day and year after year, as they “fix their eyes on Jesus,” the ultimate Goal and only, all-fulfilling Person. He is the prize whose obsession causes us to defy the impossible, to press on beyond our limits when others give up, to not be side-lined by the temptations of comfort and quitting, and to not even question why we wouldn’t waste a brief life in its very pursuit. What a mysterious invitational and incredible reward: The Presence of the Living God, the only and complete satisfaction of the hungry soul.
Much more worthwhile than even a whole box of forgotten, tarnishing, and tiny metal discs, don’t you think?