I used to do a lot of running. Mostly 10 Ks. I used to be thinner too. Ah well.
I was running a race with my dad. He took off fast, moving quickly ahead. A part of the course looped back on itself, so I saw him running towards me while I was still on the way out. He was gloating as he passed, headed the other way a mile ahead of me. He was showing the kid the old man still had it.
I was in my first 10 K, concerned how I would finish the race. I didn't want to tire too soon. I was constantly thinking about my pace, judging how my body felt, how I was using my energy, making sure I would have enough to get me to the end.
I timed it almost perfectly. There was a corner about a quarter of a mile from the finish where a photographer was taking pictures of the runners. I told myself I would turn the tap full open at that point, use all I had left, I would practically sprint to the end. I rounded that corner passing my dad. He didn’t see me. He didn’t look very good, but he was hanging in there. I flew across the finish line, using up the last bit of my energy, utterly spent.
When he crossed the finish I was pouring water over and into me. He later told me he thought I had given up on the race early, had gotten a ride to the finish. We each got a copy of that picture of the corner before the end of the race. We were side by side. He looked like he was about to collapse. I looked nearly drained, but ready for a good finish.
This blog has just finished a lap, once around the sun. Monday was the anniversary, the blogiversary, of this little on-line journal. It took a couple of months to get my first non-spambot comment. In late June I added a counter (counting visits at least one hour apart). On Christmas eve it clicked over its 10,000th visitor, like some sort of virtual odometer. Monday, on its blogiversary, it read an even 27,000 visitors. Amazing. Who would think people would be interested in reading stuff I write?!
My first post was about an epiphany after the death of my first child, Willy. The post bounced between the events of his death and a walk I took early one morning at Molalla River State Park. During the walk I came to understand that though I hurt deeply, though I was torn and broken, God was near, He loved me, He cared.
In June my eldest son (adopted from Haiti, malnourished, abused, mentally handicapped, black), was playing with fire and burned our church down. In the following months I shared various experiences dealing with the repercussions of that event. Now there are lawyers from the insurance company looking over our tax returns, searching for assets (good luck). There are ongoing counseling sessions for him (and my wife). And there are the spiritual disciplines I do to help him and the rest of my family, springing from that event that turned our lives onto a different course, a cross country race through unknown terrain.
I’ve had some creepy experiences this past year, this last lap around our local star. Events which lend evidence of dark supernatural forces seeking to influence me and mine. I learned a little of how to deal with them. I take those lessons very seriously, though I write about them seldom. Those lessons continue.
I’ve had some physical challenges this past year. I threw my back out on a wild ride hanging onto the back of a pick up. My psoriasis got so bad at times that the cuts and rashes made my hands nearly unusable. I frequently found little spots of blood on things I handled.
This last lap has brought me closer to Brenda. I love my wife even more today than I did a year ago, our marriage is stronger than ever. The biggest part of that change is prayer. We pray for each other, I pray over her each night.
Though the struggles in my life do not compare to the problems Job faced, I drew strength, wisdom, and guidance from what I read there, and I continued to see things in that wonderfully mysterious book of the Bible. Sometimes during this past year, this last lap, I shared some of my interpretations of that book.
It has been quite a year.
This past year I noticed changes in my body, reminding me not only how fragile I am, but that I am no longer thirty. I shaved my beard for Lent (only one week to go!). I saw my cheeks for the first time in 33 years. I see how I am a little older. Which makes sense. I am turning 50 on the 27th. Turning 50 is kind of like watching the odometer on your car roll over 100,000 miles. It is the odometer of my life (though I don’t think it’s so much the distance as the terrain!). It really isn’t a big deal, another day, but it is a surprising number. I always thought that 50 was old. It doesn’t seem so old any more. I’m sure it isn’t as old as it used to be!
So, another lap around the sun. The 50th. How many more? 30? 20? 50? (Unlikely.) Perhaps not even one. It could be that one day this blog will simply stop, because I have. My heart will cease to beat and I will stop running this race. I will stop doing laps between my home and work five times each week. The Earth will continue to spin, but I will stop racing from meal to meal, and book to book, and prayer to prayer. No more cycles of spring, summer, fall, and winter. No more watching the moon grow and fade. No more walks in the snow, wading in the river, standing over my son’s grave.
Instead of doing laps I will begin a long climb. A climb up a never ending mountain. Right now I am walking up a slope rising gently from the turmoil, the rocky valleys of mortal life, and up to the meadows on hills of spiritual awareness. Ahead of me the hill dips back down toward the Earth, but I will continue walking upward, away from the Earth, treading on air, strolling in the sky. I will climb gently into a life where I am surrounded by the light of the Son, and grow through and into eternity.
This race tests who I am. It strengthens my spiritual muscles in ways Heaven will not. Here I have the obstacles of sin, desire, self-centeredness. Here I am a wayward child of God. There I will be His son, prodigal no longer. I will stop being childish and will become childlike. I will journey through eternity with angels, beings who watched the Lord God create this spinning ball of dirt, setting such frail, fickle creatures in its garden. Those beings will walk with me as I explore a new garden, The Garden, where the light comes not from the sun, but the Son.
So, I’ve completed another lap around the sun, one with many of you watching along the route, cheering me on, giving me encouragement, giving me courage. (Thank you, thank you, thank you.)
I know I have a limited number of laps ahead of me. I want to continue strengthening these spiritual muscles, using up my energy as I go so that when I round that final corner, and the finish line is within sight, I can sprint hard and fast into the arms of the One who pours living water over and into me.
I will then stroll, not run, through eternity.