Run no. 78 – Shall I call the ambulance now?

health_heart

Distance: 4.53 miles (7.3 km) Time: 42’ 54” (PB 38’ 38”)

The cheek of some people!

As I was running around Watermeads Country Park on my usual run; in reply to my cheery, “Good afternoon. God bless you!” some cheeky beggar shouted out to me,

“Shall I call the ambulance now?”

Which made me realise that I do not have the running equivalent of a ‘poker face’.

Some people have a running gait that looks effortless – even when they’re pushing hard.

Some have a beatific facial expression that belies all effort.

Not so me!

It is very obvious that every ounce of pain and effort is writ large on my face and shown in my belaboured running gait.

I guess this is true in the spiritual life too.

For some people the spiritual life looks easy. They exemplify certain verses in the Bible that seem to indicate this is how things should be;

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,

for I am gentle and humble in heart,

and you will find rest for your souls.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”[1]

For others the spiritual life doesn’t look like that at all. Rather it is more like some other scriptural verses. I think of St Paul’s use of metaphors from the boxing ring and the gym;

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?

Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training.

They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly;

I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.

No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.[2]

So which of these is the truth about the spiritual life?

I guess the classic answer is both/and.

There are times when things go easy, God seems close, blessings are abundant and we can very well agree with Brother Lawrence that;

Our business is simply to love and be happy in God.[3]

At other times God will seem remote, blessings none existant, the demands of the spiritual life burdensome, and the rewards absent.

It is at times like these that the mental toughness developed by running can help.

We run even when it isn’t fun, because we know it is good.

Likewise we love and centre our lives on God, regardless of the payoff. It is simply the right way to ‘be’. And our perspective is the long game; not the close horizon of our earthly existence, but the far horizon of an eternity with God enjoying Him and all the good He has planned for us.

From the perspective of eternity our pains will be our pride;

they will be the inerasable evidence of our love for, and commitment to, God.

 

[1] Matthew 11 :28-30 NIV

[2] 1 Corinthian 9:24-27 NIV

[3] The Practice of the presence of God, 2nd conversation.

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Run no. 24 – God, saying nothing, speaks

silence of god

Distance: 4.53 miles   Time: 41’02”

When I’m out running often God speaks. He might remind me of something, show me a metaphor or an analogy to inspire and encourage my faith, spark off a train of thought that takes me somewhere in God I’ve never yet been.

But sometimes God says nothing.

What do we do in those silent times?

Does God not care about us anymore?

God’s silences can be very painful, particularly when they occur in moments of crisis, times when we are desperate for God’s help and presence, and yet it seems that He is absent.

It’s enough to drive a man crazy, it’ll break a man’s faith

It’s enough to make him wonder, if he’s ever been sane

When he’s bleating for comfort from Thy staff and Thy rod

And the Heaven’s only answer is the silence of God[1]

We see a lot of this pain and anguish expressed in the Bible;

How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?

Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?[2]

There is a mystery in this.

There have been many attempts to explain why God is sometimes silent.

The silence of God creates a space for our faith to be strengthened.

The silence of God increases our sense of desire for God in the way that all deprivation draws out desire.

Yes, pine for thy God, fainting soul! ever pine;

Oh languish mid all that life brings thee of mirth;

Famished, thirsty, and restless — let such life be thine—

For what sight is to heaven, desire is to earth.[3]

Perhaps the most significant aspect of God’s silence is that it forces us to choose whether we will continue to love, to serve, and to obey God, even when it brings us no benefit.

C.S. Lewis imagined two devils discussing this;

Be not deceived, Wormwood,

our cause is never more in jeopardy than when a human,

no longer desiring but still intending to do our Enemy’s will,

looks round upon a universe in which every trace of him seems to have vanished,

and asks why he has been forsaken,

and still obeys.[4]

This kind of serious, grown-up, engaged, self-decentring faith is evidence that we are making progress in God, that we are finally ‘getting it’, that our souls are starting to take the shape that God desires for them, and that we are becoming spiritual vital beings.

Only the space God creates in our lives through His silence, enables us to grow and mature into this.

There has been a cultural icon in movies of the ‘strong and silent’ hero.

God wants us to be ‘strong in silence’.

So God, saying nothing, speaks.

[1] Andrew Peterson, The Silence of God from the album Love and Thunder

[2] Habakkuk 1:2 NIV

[3] Fredrick William Faber, ‘The Desire of God’

[4] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters