Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Why Run?

If someone read the description of my blog, Running, Writing, and Renewal, then I'm not sure they would consider me being all that faithful to the Running part. Oh I'm Writing a fair amount. And I talk a bit about Renewal if not directly, then indirectly. But very few of my posts lately are directly about running. It might seem like everything I write is about God--things like baptisms, or the arc of a rainbow after a great flood. And I would not shirk this description and I have no shame in such a description. I guess these sorts of topics are the renewal part.

But behind all this writing about being renewed in God is always a nearby run. If I had my way, I'd run every day, in fact, twice a day if my body could manage it. Running provides much of the fuel for my writing and whether I write well or junk, and most first drafts are junk, and sadly some last drafts are junk, running keeps the keypad being struck and the ink being spilt. No kidding, running is where I am renewed, renewed to keep writing.

Running is more than just physical fitness. If it were simply a way to stay healthy I think I would take the advice of the many who think it is crazy or those who have had a knee or two replaced, and I would swim or spin on the elliptical to no where. But running outside is the drug, better than caffeine, which fuels my daily writing.

I consider running to be active prayer, like I consider writing to be active prayer. Some saints of the church have said the task of the believer is to try to become all prayer. I love that. It's so Eastern Orthodox--with hope that one might move towards perfection. It's so Methodist or Wesleyan--with a doctrine of Sanctification where we grow more and more God-like.

I'm not suggesting that running and writing is a requirement for anyone but me. But whatever your vehicles for prayer might be, and maybe you are still searching for them, I would suggest you find them and start driving them. Take them for a ride as often as you can. Get paid for them if you can, but do them even if you cannot make a living at them. Drive your vehicles of prayer because they show you the way--a way with God.

Eugene Peterson has a book about reading the Bible called Eat This Book. One of the things I take from this great book is that you better eat what sustains you. I'm with him, wholeheartedly, and reading Scripture is part of my daily diet along with a healthy serving of running and writing.

In a scene described in Psalm 42, I imagine a runner, a deer, who has had a long healthy run in the woods and comes upon a stream. This has been a tempo run or a fartlek run, which is a run filled with speed-play. She is just running today because she can. She finds the stream that she has been longing for and she takes a good long break. No rush. She laps up water that will renew her. Make her able to keep running. To cross the stream. To outrun danger if it is lurking.

She's a trail runner, ideally on a trail like the gem pictured above. Or she's a bushwhacker if the spirit or a foe moves her to dart off trail. But she needs the water. She's always looking for it. The water is the power, the fuel in her diet. All that out of this text (vv. 1-2):

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? I think this is an Ellen Davis translation from the papercut outside Goodson Chapel at the Duke Divinity School.

I like this translation too:
As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? from the New Revised Standard Version.

Go find your stream.
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