A new season has started. Spring is a week away. Winter is just now losing its grip. With the last round of snow out of the way, running season has begun. I live in a neighborhood with serpentine running trails meandering throughout the homes and parks. Miles of paved trails lead active individuals around and around on an endless route of car-free paths. And just this week, people are beginning taking advantage of the season change. Some evenings it seems like everybody in the subdivision is out of his or her house running.
Many of those people are training for marathons. The OKC Memorial Marathon is just around the corner on April 26. In my life, I have run my fair share of races. As a child, we did a lot of fun runs. I loved to do sprints and other races in gym class. I have zero athletic skill, but I can run fast….briefly. As an adult, Kati and I have participated in 5Ks together at the Deer Creek Classic and the Remember the Ten run in Stillwater. I even had a treadmill in my house for a couple of years that received regular use. I say that to say this: I cannot physically or psychologically conceive of running a marathon.
26.2 miles is a long way. Each mile brings its own set of challenges: hills and valleys, sun and shade, wind and rain. A marathon cannot be won in the first mile or the fifth mile or even the twenty-fourth mile. It can be lost anywhere along the way. A runner can go too fast in one section and ruin another. The stress of a particularly strenuous hill climb can change the mentality for the rest of the race. Negative thoughts in the heat of day can sneak in and stay even as the cooling rain begins to fall. Runners lose track of the bigger picture because of what is happening in a moment. A marathon is as draining mentally as it is physically. Beyond all of that, it just seems like a really long way to go on foot.
Another marathon begins a little over a week from now. Holy Week is its own kind of marathon. For Connecting Point Presbyterian Church, it means four worship services of various kinds and two events in the course of eight days. It means a lot of long days and nights at the church preparing for and actually doing what we have been planning for months. Like a true marathon, the marathon of Holy Week comes with its own set of issues. Can I really make it to four services? How can I lead, participate, and still enjoy the week with so much happening? What if I am tired and worn out byWednesday?
I think that is where the marathon runner helps us. They enjoy running. They enjoy running that far. They enjoy the scenery and the challenge. It is a process and journey for them that runs all the way from training to the race itself. No one part gets all the attention or energy. No one part makes or breaks the race. Sure some parts need more effort. In other stages of the race, they may turn the pace down a little. They may be a leader in one area and follower in another. What matters is completing the 26.2 mile journey.
Enjoy the marathon of Holy Week. Appreciate all the ebbs and flows of what is to come. This week contains the highest highs and the lowest lows of our faith. Experience all of that. Take a break where necessary too. Push on where you need to, as well. The finish line, Easter Sunday, is only over the next hill…