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long distance running…

I’m not a runner. I mean, I try but I’m just not really built for it. I’m more the flexibility and strength training kind of body.  Running is something I do because it has merit for me and because I’m able to do it most places I go. I can take that practice with me wherever I go.  It becomes a kind of prayer in that way.

A friend mentioned a book this week to me about the role of the church to help prepare us for the meeting of the One who made us.  I haven’t read the book yet so I’m not sure if the imagery it brought up in me is actually in line with the author’s thinking or not. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting image so I wrote it down.

I like the idea that Love is a long distance runner.  It’s a practice, really, as well as an emotion.  I’ve been working with this idea a while now so when the thought about “practice” to be prepared to meet our Creator came through the email system to me it sparked this additional piece to that.

What if the practice of loving is also a kind of “training?”  What if ALL our spiritual practices are not just to achieve some result here in the physical world but really, in essence a way to prepare us for the event of meeting God, live and in person?

So if, as my friend suggested in his email that one of the purposes of the church, maybe the main purpose of the church in fact, is to help us prepare for this task then how does that change my perception of the church’s role in my own life?

When someone decides to run a marathon or do a triathlon for the first time and asks my opinion I always suggest they get a trainer. It’s not something to be taken lightly.  I suggest at the very least that they read about it, get a training program and train with other people.  These are events they have to run on their own, to be sure, but the working out can and I think, should be done with other people.

In this way, the “working out” of our salvation is actually a physical event, not merely a set of dry rituals, obligations and uttered prayers. It’s work. Anyone who has done this training for a distance event will tell you about that moment though, in the training, in the running, where they forget themselves and find something else.  It’s actually why people will continue to do exercise, the endorphins kicking in, the runner’s high…but then something else, the self forgetting.  It’s an act of worship when we forget ourselves and leave room for something intangible…

It’s just the start of an idea I’m kicking around so I’ll stop there…but it brings up the question for me today, what kind of training am I doing?  Who am I going to choose to guide me in this and can I submit to that training? Then on a deeper metaphorical level…is the training then, also the race in a way?

Lots to consider…