“A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”
Ever since I was a teenager, I’ve had this crazy goal: to run a marathon. Running is something that I’ve always enjoyed because of how it’s allowed me to push and challenge myself. Running a marathon seemed to me like the ultimate test and challenge for a runner, but what I didn’t realize was how many valuable lessons about spiritual growth and maturity that I would take from the experience. Last month, I finally completed my first marathon, and while looking back on the experience, I found that it’s a lot like our journey as Christians. During one of my training runs, the Holy Spirit brought the phrase “a long obedience in the same direction” to my mind. This is a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, and Eugene Peterson used it as the title of one of his books. In the book, Eugene Peterson uses it as a reminder that as believers we are pilgrims, spending our entire lives traveling towards our heavenly destination. The journey is long, there are no shortcuts, and the only way to get there is to follow the Way, who is Jesus. This phrase stuck with me throughout the rest of my training, and even during the race itself. I kept repeating it to myself, and it helped me to keep perspective; to remember the end goal, and that the journey towards that goal wasn’t going to be quick or easy. But even more than helping me through the marathon, it helped me to be able to relate that experience to my own spiritual growth. There were plenty of obstacles to overcome during the race, like the weather, and the frequent urges to quit. All I could do was just trust that if I kept moving forward and following the course, that I would eventually reach the finish line. I knew that if I could exercise enough discipline to continue onward, that eventually I would reach the finish line and be so glad that I did. This same principal is true in our everyday lives as well. There are times where the obstacles that come up are incredibly burdensome, and we may look for shortcuts or easy ways around them. But Scripture tells us that those obstacles and difficult times teach us things like discipline and character. And even more than that, they help us to identify with our Savior, who did not search for shortcuts, but instead obediently bore the pain of the cross for our sake. As a runner, I try my best to see difficult points of a run as opportunities to get better. By being disciplined enough to push past them, I will hopefully grow stronger until eventually those same obstacles hardly seem as daunting as they once did. The Holy Spirit convicts me daily of the need for the same mindset, and same need for discipline spiritually. Like with running a marathon, our lives require a long obedience in the same direction. I’m so thankful for a God who is gracious enough to allow us to see and learn important lessons like this through simple things like our hobbies.