Distance: 4.53 miles Time: 43’07” (PB 38’ 28”)
When out running you see people in club kit. The name of the club proudly emblazoned on the chest. You notice that this shared uniform enables club members to recognise each other, you hear the ‘hellos’ and see the salutes and waves.
Of course the primary reason for a club uniform is in competition, it enables the runners of each club to be identified, particularly important in inter-club meets.
All this is the positive benefit of uniform, but some things are lost too.
The individual becomes harder to identify, their uniqueness somewhat diminished by a common kit.
As usual, I was prompted to reflect on this in spiritual terms.
The Christian faith, which I espouse, has only one goal for those who follow Jesus – transformation. A goal sometimes explained by the double metaphor of putting off the old man’ (Ephesians 4:22-24) and ‘putting on Christ’ (Romans 31:14).
The picture is of someone taking off old set of clothing and getting dressed in something new. Those who would follow Jesus are expected, commanded even, to take off the old clothes that are no longer appropriate and dress themselves with Jesus. That is to say that their thoughts, words and actions should no longer represent their old values and priorities but those of Jesus.
In order to be able to do this, followers of Jesus need to know what Jesus said about Himself, about them, and what He commands His disciples to do. There is only one source for this information and that is the Bible – our record of the life of Jesus, the message of Jesus and the response made to that message by those who knew Him best.
It is only as people get to grips with this that they can start to discard ‘clothing’ that doesn’t fit with their new identity, and ‘dress’ their lives and actions with ‘clothing’ that looks like Jesus.
Whilst this process certainly involves the loss of some elements from our lives, and the embracing of a common uniform, this does not undermine individuality.
It is like a football team. At the presentation most players are fairly indistinguishable, their size and stature fairly similar. However when they start to play their individual styles, abilities, tricks and techniques, will be expressed.
In ‘putting on Christ’ we do not lose our individuality, rather we are freed up to express that individuality in a new and fuller way.
Distance: 4.53 miles Time: 40’58”
During the whole of the four and a half miles that I run, there is one particular step that I find the most challenging; and that is the first one, the one that takes me out through the door.
I lie in bed thinking “I should go for a run this morning”; but then the negative thoughts come rushing in, think how hard it might be, think how cold it might be…etc.
And the stark contrast between how warm and comfortable I am in bed and the imagined awfulness of struggling round in freezing conditions; and the choice between that and another 40 minutes in bed…
That first step is really hard to take.
But I managed to take it this morning, and you know what? It was ok. It actually wasn’t cold, it was pleasant. And I found that my run wasn’t painful, it felt comfortable; yet when I looked at my time it was ok, not too slow (well not for me, anyway!).
And when I finished and the endorphin kick came in and I actually felt good about it.
All of which made me start reflecting on the uselessness of dread in our lives.
I was dreading running, yet none of the elements I was dreading – the pain, the cold – even existed. They were figments of my dread yet they weighed heavy in my thinking and decision making and came close to altering my behaviour.
They were mere insubstantial phantoms – yet they might have easily changed my mind and actions.
I started wondering what other ‘phantoms of dread’ are active in my thinking and decision-making? What insubstantial fears prevent me from being and doing all that I might?
As usual my reflections turn to the spiritual life; what prevents me from going deeper with God; getting closer to Him; allowing Him to set the direction and content of my life?
What are the phantoms of dread that hold me back? Fear of what the cost might be? Yet what do I take with me to the next life anyway? As they say, “There are no pockets in a shroud”.
Fear of failure? Yet God calls us to obedience and faithfulness, not necessarily success.
Fear of unpleasantness? Yet God loves us, we are to call Him “Father”, does a loving father impose unnecessary suffering on His children. Any such struggles and difficulties He allows in our lives must have some possible benefit or redeeming possibility – otherwise He would not be true to His nature of love.
Good luck exorcising your phantoms of dread.