Thursday, January 5, 2012

Marathon

We were the dreamers, the boys on the wild frontier, new believers with nothing in the world to fear.

We had discovered the treasure of the love and the grace of God, and it burned like fire in our hearts and we would ...

Throw back our heads and run with passion through the fields of forgiveness and grace.

We carried the eternal flame with an undying hope, and a blazing conviction of truth that would never fade.

We were glowing in the dark, children of the burning heart. 

~ Steven Curtis Chapman, Children of the Burning Heart

My best friend from high school, Patrick Thomas Prowse, recommended that I give this song a listen. He says it reminds him of us when we were teenagers.

Originally, we were three in number, a triumvirate of adrenaline and chaos. Chapmans lyric is an apt description of our “stumbling heaven-ward” zeal. We made a ton of mistakes, but we learned together – iron sharpening iron – and challenged, encouraged, and supported each other through thick and thin.

And, between the three of us, managed to keep at least one of our battered cars in marginal running condition – not necessarily the same car, week by week. We were also legendary for our love of (a) Resurrection Band and (b) deaf-defying stereo volume (especially windows-down on an open highway).

By naming Patrick, but not our third co-conspirator, you can probably guess where this is going. And you’d be correct: only two-thirds of our madcap troika self-identify as Jesus-followers today.

We’ve each experienced our fair share of butt-kicking, confidence-shaking, faith-rattling challenges. And really, who hasnt? Life in a fallen world can go sideways at times. And when it does, faith can become either a lifeline or a casualty.

In fact, if this was a poker game, and I a betting man, Id wager that everyone who’s read this far has felt a twinge of grief over a friend or loved one who’ve cashed in their Jesus chips … if thats not taking the poker metaphor too far.

I find the apostle Paul a great source of encouragement here. His ministry path vacillated between incredible highs and dismal lows. His “resumé of pain” is, frankly, far worse than anything I’ve experienced: beaten, imprisoned, flogged multiple times, shipwrecked at least twice, hunted by wannabe assassins, and so on. The short version is found in 2 Corinthians 11:24–27. Reading it usually gives me perspective.

And yet near the end of his life, Paul sums up everything – the good, the bad, and the ugly – like this: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).”

He didnt bask in the glow of his many accomplishments as a missionary and church-planter (and writer of Scripture, although he probably didnt know it at the time). Nor did he bemoan his painful experiences (although he wrote candidly about them).

He fought.

He finished.

And he kept the faith.

In life’s faith marathon, my hope is to be able to say the same.