Any marathoner who happens to be a follower of Christ has, at some time, lingered over the passage in Hebrews 12 where Paul writes:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (NIV translation)
The exhortation to run with perseverance is, of course, the part we love. After all, that’s preeminently what a marathon takes: dogged endurance, plus a ready supply of ibuprofen. As for “the sin that entangles,” well, that’s between me and God, isn’t it? There won’t be any self-disclosure here. It’s enough that God has unimpeachable witnesses.
When I’m attempting to run the Portland Marathon tomorrow, I intend to work out with God a couple of things:
1. Praise for a year of good health. Frankly, I didn’t see it coming and have been humbled by his act of divine grace. I started running again a year ago as I gradually sensed that it should be part of my therapy. Nothing gives me the joy of a good, hard run. Even though I may end up walking some or most of the marathon tomorrow because of an angry IT band (see below), I remain grateful simply for the opportunity he’s given me to be there.
2. Intercession on behalf of many people I know or I’ve been told about who have been touched by cancer. I have 18 people on my list. Some have been treated for melanoma, two are in late-stage breast cancer, and all have been made vulnerable by a disease I know something about first-hand. I’ll be praying for each person for the time it takes me to run/walk a mile.
What all of us who have experienced cancer share is agonizomi, a Greek word with a rich meaning. It means to fight fervently for or against something (as in a marathon, or any “race marked out before us”), but is also an apt word for the call to the Christian life. We are to strive (“agonizomi”) to enter through the narrow door. This is never easy. It takes perseverance. And it’s a door through which one doesn’t run recklessly.
The past year has been a miracle for me. The next 24 hours are a party to celebrate all that’s happened. Perhaps I’ll light a candle on top of that big pile of pasta tonight.