A long run.

The people who say, “X is not a sprint, it’s a marathon” haven’t completed marathons. I think they mean that a project or a process or a task will take a long time. What they are saying to some of us is, “This will take a long time, and you will be increasingly miserable during that time, and the training will make you miserable too, and you have many opportunities for injury, and by the end you may be barely able to walk, and even professionals sometimes puke.”

I thought about that while talking to a friend about the process of aging. There is less and less that comes easy. We have to choose our battles, choose our efforts, even choose what we choose about.

I’m talking with friends who care about and for other people. They are getting forgetful, getting discouraged, getting sad, getting weary. “There’s no particular reason I’m anxious,” they say. “There’s no particular reason I should be sad,” they say.

I remind them that there is a global pandemic that has disrupted most elements of their lives, and that they spend all their working time (and most of their waking time (and a percentage of their sleeping time)) helping people adjust and grieve and survive. I remind them that we are in a compassion marathon.

And that comes at a cost. Who helps my friends be able to help?

One writer draws on the image of running. Run the race that is laid out for you, the writer says. Drop all the things that weigh you down and that trip you up.

(In other words, run the path, not the digressions. And run your path, not someone else’s. Abandon the unnecessary expectations, the obligations imposed by non-runners. Let go of the flawed thinking and behaviors that get you caught in a loop).

And then, look at Jesus who, in a marathon, went all the way to the death. On purpose. And came back to help us with ours.

It is hard, this marathon. Find encouragement in the face of one who doesn’t deny the reality but acknowledges it.

2 thoughts on “A long run.

  1. billhanifin

    Words are fun indeed. Saying it’s a marathon, not a sprint in a meeting is a gentle handwave to the reality, but gets the point across. The implication is a bit negative as well, isn’t it? Most people who refer to the “marathon” probably think it is something crazy to undertake and something they wouldn’t bother with. They don’t have a grid for embracing the training, staying the course, and maybe vomiting along the way.

    I think what is meant to be expressed is “this is going to take a long time and will require discipline, patience, lots of energy parsed out over an extended time period”. That is the sanitized description of the marathon.

    I like to think of life not as a marathon that I suffer through, but – as you suggest – take inspiration from Jesus who has paid the ultimate price to give us this life. Finding contentment in any circumstance, reminding ourselves to be grateful, and embracing patient endurance as a joyful state each day is a way to find the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth.

    God promised we would see the Kingdom in the “land of the living” and I am only now realizing this is a true possibility if we follow the example of our Saviour on a daily basis.

    Thanks Jon for your patient endurance and allegiance to this blog. Your writings are invaluable.


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