"Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."
I can remember growing up and competing in just about anything that was related to sports and athletics. I tended to be quite the jock and it didn't matter if it was a school tournament or a local church soft ball game; I played as if it was the World Series Championships! In truth, I can remember playing basketball and stating that, "If you can't compete, get off the court!" Competition had a much different meaning to me back then.
So then when someone would talk about racing, it meant that you had to be the fastest or at least appear as though you train to be the "best" super athlete that you can picture. I can't help but think that this is where we first go wrong when we think of the competition or race that God first calls us too.
Competition in God's eyes seems more about training and sharpening our own abilities to succeed and run the race in spite of our own challenges both in the physical sense and unseen realms. It was never meant to be about defeating or over coming others whether it was school friends or the self imposed super athlete. It was about taking who you are holistically in the here and now and propelling it to new levels of abilities and self understanding.
The apostle Paul calls us to run the race as to win an imperishable prize. Imperishable because the reward we receive is not one that we can see outside of ourselves but internally as we recognize Jesus' Spirit continually transforming us as our bodies become stronger, our minds sharper, and our spirits lifted to unmeasurable hope and joy. This is the spirit of inspiration that we see in our friends, coworkers, and the people around us as they pursue their dreams and overcome the individual challenges that they face while running the race of life. This is the spirit which we can allow to flood our hearts and make our blood flow as we too face our challenges as we race with and not against our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, and our friends!
This past weekend I had the opportunity to be with some of the super athletes in my life. Friday night was Mike Zunic's first time racing his new dragster at Race City Speedway. He is supported by the Parkinson's Society as they are calling this summers tour 'Racing for a Cure'. Mike, himself, battles Parkinson's Disease which causes him to face challenges in his motor control as well as difficulty in speaking. In spite of these "thorns in the flesh" Mike races not just for the righteous pursuit of a physical cure but in the fulfillment of a life long dream which no doubt is inspired by a deep convicting faith in Jesus Christ. His racing and traveling to speak to others who face similar battles mirrors the warriors of those who in scripture ran from town to town crying "He is risen! He is risen indeed!" The world may cry that defeat leads to death but the runners of the New Testament and Mike know that defeat only leads to Resurrection!
On Sunday my friend Jeff Keop also ran a race of his own in the 'Mother's Day Run and Walk'. To look at him you would never know that three months ago he had to undergo back surgery as he was unable to walk without serious chronic pain. So much so that he was confined to a bed. In spite of these challenges Jeff is inspiring not only himself to run the race but 40 of his patients which he has in his chiropractic practice. God's Spirit pours out of him as he brings his faith everyday to the office and communicates holistic healing not just through his words but by the model he exemplifies within his own character.
Running the race is not always going to be on the easy road. We cannot allow ourselves though to be diminished or eliminated from the race simply because we choose to disqualify ourselves out of either self pride, lack of humility, or even self loathing. Running the race is not something we can do from the sidelines! We need to ask ourselves; what is the race that God is calling me to? How is it that I can use and improve my abilities to not only build myself up physically, mindfully, and spiritually but also inspire others to enter the race with me? Am I being all that God created and meant me to be?
I suppose that is enough writing for now. I need to go for a run!!!
"Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the hole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God."