Monday, March 26, 2012

The Marathon

We were the dreamers, the boys on the wild frontier
The 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 a 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 a truth that would never fade
(Children of the Burning Heart, Steven Curtis Chapman)
The song lyric quoted above was recommended to me by my best friend since high school, Patrick Thomas Prowse. Pat says it reminds him of us when we were teenagers.

Originally, there were three of us, a triumvirate of adrenaline and chaos, and the song lyric does pretty accurately describe us, in our energetic (and admittedly imperfect) "stumbling heaven-ward" zeal.

We made a ton of mistakes, of course, but we grew a lot (iron sharpening iron), and challenged, encouraged, and supported each other through thick and thin.

And somehow, between the three of us, kept at least one of our junked automobiles in running condition at least part of the time. And listened to a lot of Resurrection Band at deaf-defying volumes.

Of course, by naming my buddy Pat and not naming the other third of the Three Amigos, you've probably already guessed where this is going, and you're absolutely correct: only two-thirds of the original threesome would still call ourselves "Christian" today.

All three of us have been through the good, the bad, and the ugly in life, albeit not all in the same way. But each of us has had our fair share of butt-kicking, confidence-shaking, faith-rattling things happen to us.

And really, who hasn't? Life, this side of the Kingdom coming in its fullness, can go seriously sideways at times. And when that happens, not everyone's faith survives. In fact, if this was a poker game, and I were a betting man, I'd wager that everyone who has read this far has felt a twinge of grief about a friend or family member who has cashed in their Jesus chips (or is that taking the poker metaphor too far?).

I find the Apostle Paul to be a great source of encouragement here. Paul's life in ministry had some incredible highs and some dismal lows. His "resumé of pain" is, frankly, a lot worse than anything I've been through: beatings, imprisonment, flogging (multiple), shipwrecks, people attempting to kill him, etc. 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 all that he'd been through -- the good, the bad, and the ugly -- with these simple, profound and powerful words:

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Paul didn't bask in the glow of his many accomplishments as a missionary and church-planter (and writer of Scripture, although he probably didn't realize it at the time). Neither did he bemoan his many painful experiences (although he was pretty candid about them).

He fought.

He finished.

And he kept the faith.

In this spiritual marathon, my hope is to be able to say the same.


  1. WOW!!!! You were (WBC 1985-87) and continue to be a great thinker! I love how your mind unravels the word into everyday thought and life making me feel "normal" about the challenges and the opportunities of each. All this visionary... keeping the end in mind. THANK YOU! Michell P

  2. Michelle, thanks for your gracious comment! Very encouraging. :)