Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
I am not a runner. Even back in my high school and college days when I was a dancer, and in the best shape of my life, I could not run. Well, perhaps then I would not run, did not want to run. I have tried off and on over the years. When I met my husband in 2012 I was training for my first ever 5K. I ran the Color Run in the fall of that year and it turned out to be my last ever 5K. Also, I didn't really run it, I mostly walked.
In all my attempts over the years, I've searched for that "runner's high" people speak of where it becomes easy, even enjoyable to run, and I have come to conclude that it is a myth - something the in-shape people tell us out of shape people to try and trick us into running. I won't fall for it! I've come to determine that running is just not for me - there are plenty of other things I love to do that help me stay healthy and get in shape - yoga, walking, swimming, kayaking, racquetball... the list goes on. But running? No thanks!
So when the author of Hebrews uses running a race as a metaphor for our faith, I get a little annoyed. "Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us" - ugh, I don't wanna! Can't I just, I dunno, walk the race with perseverance? Amble along the path? Perhaps I'm the tortoise in the famous fable - slow and steady wins the race.
And then I realized that perhaps run is not the operative word here, though it is the one that distracts me the most. Perhaps I should pay more attention to "perseverance" and "race." Running a race implies that there is a set path, a charted course, a guided way to go. Perhaps our race of faith is not about getting to a destination the fastest but paying attention to our journey, to making sure we are on the path that God has called us to.
And perseverance? The dictionary definition is "persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success." Well, is there any more apt description for what it sometimes feels like to follow Christ? To do the kingdom work God requires of us? It is difficult, and there are many delays in achieving success. In fact, we might never really see success, instead, we must take heart in the idea that God will bring fruit from the seeds we have planted, even if we will never see it.
So, God calls us to follow the path God has set before us and to do so with perseverance, with persistence, despite difficulty and delay. We don't have to be the fastest, we don't have to get to the finish line first, in fact, we might never get there. But just like the 5K that I walked instead of running, the victory comes in the attempt, in setting out along the path at all.
God of runners, walkers, and differently-abled, help each of us to see the race you have set before us. Give us the strength and the faith we need to run/walk/stroll/amble/wheel along that path as best we are able, with all the perseverance we can muster. Help us to trust in your strength when ours inevitably fails. Amen.