Dear friends in Christ,
I’m not an athlete, but I’m married to a runner. Over the years, I’ve learned a few things about running and about training. To be clear: I learned these things from the sofa.
Sherilyn, my spouse, decided several years ago that she wanted to run a full marathon, 26.2 miles. She started a training program. She had to work out. She had to adjust her eating. It was a big deal. And I’m proud to say she managed to run several marathons!
One of the things I learned about running marathons is that you have to set your pace. You have to run mile 1 at about the pace you want to run mile 25. If you run too slowly, you’ll have a lousy time. But if you run too fast, you’ll flame out and might not be able to finish. Successfully running a marathon is about a lot of things, but getting the right pace is pretty important.
I’ve been thinking about that lately with regard to the pandemic. Unlike a marathon, which is a predictable 26.2 miles long, we don’t know how long things will stretch on. At times, I have believed we were rounding the corner and the finish line was in sight. But with new variants of the virus and with ongoing issues with people not practicing safe social distancing and mask-wearing, this could drag on for quite a while.
There are some days I’m feeling pretty good, and I’m optimistic about the future. On those days, the losses and grief of the pandemic are manageable. But on other days, I become dismal about the future, and that spills over into my view of the present. In other words, I’m not keeping a steady pace.
And it’s not just managing my expectations. In all sorts of ways, this pandemic is surprisingly exhausting. I’ve heard that from people again and again. Parents are weary from home schooling. Churches are weary from managing remote or hybrid gatherings. Workers are weary from disruption to familiar workplace patterns. Elderly people are weary from isolation. And on and on.
Hebrews 12 begins with some powerful images:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
In other words, this life of following Jesus is hard. But we need not despair. As we suffer, we know that those who have gone before have suffered before us, and they cheer us on. Jesus carries the burden of our faith, and he will intercede for us with God the Father. How do we get through challenging times? We “run with perseverance the race that is set before us.”
This pandemic, like life itself, is a marathon, not a sprint. Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.
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