I am a runner. I shamelessly display my “26.2” bumper stickers and Road Runners club key fob, and I rarely have all ten toenails intact. Running is in some ways rather an odd passion: it requires vast discipline and sacrifice, yet yields minimal immediate visible results (minus the black toenails). In spite of that, there is such joy and satisfaction in the end that the temporary suffering is worth it. There is a pure and spectacular beauty in it.
Recently, I was completing a workout with some friends, and one of my fellow runners was discussing strategy. As a math teacher, this guy has a head for detail and specifics. He was describing how he measures stride and carefully calculates breathing. Now, I am a planning, methodical, competitive runner too. But listening to all of the superfluous stress that went into this guy’s efforts, I couldn’t help but think how it seemed to take all the fun out of it. Sometimes the best way to enjoy and appreciate the sport is to leave behind the watch and the timing sheet and just run, for the pure pleasure of movement.
I wonder if our approach to faith can sometimes mimic my enthusiast friend’s strategic take on running. We put so much effort and worry into how to live out Christian rules and practices, and it can get in the way of actually living. We fret and fuss over doctrine, track our scripture memorization, and monitor church attendance. We know that our salvation is not through works, but our actions often indicate otherwise. Or maybe we are hoping to earn heavenly “brownie points” by working harder or doing things just right.
What if we just opted for peace? Easier said than done, of course, but consider the words of the Psalmist:
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10
And consider how God appeared to the prophet Elijah, not as a rushing wind or an earthquake but a still voice. Even Jesus commanded wind and rain to be still (Mark 4). The laws of nature obeyed Him…but do we? We work ourselves up with regulations and duties and ideals. Yet what God desires most is us. Not our deeds or intentions, but our whole beings. God wants us to be still, to just live and be in Him. So put away the watch and the calculations. Lay aside the details. Just be. Pray, love, live. It isn’t always easy. Just as running requires work and vigilance, Christian life involves sincere effort. But sometimes all we can do is be still.