As the gun goes off for the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 21, many runners will spring into action. One will win – in each of the six categories. And undoubtedly, their laurels will be thoroughly deserved.
The discipline, fortitude, and hours of training in solitude – accompanied only by the staccato of sneakers touching down for split-second landings – are worthy of much praise. Some marathoners run as many as 140 miles a week, or 20 miles a day on average. That's more than some people commute daily – in their cars.
But there's a larger lesson in the beauty of the marathon, whether one is running in it for charity or a personal best, or for the first time. And that is the honed patience and perseverance that allow someone to succeed in whatever endeavor he or she attempts.
Maybe it's parenting or a career change, graduate school or community work. Whatever our particular race may be, we'll find the most beautiful example of patient devotion to a goal in the face of formidable obstacles in the life of Christ Jesus.
He was sent by God for the salvation of humanity. At every turn, he met resistance. When he started his healing ministry, the Pharisees derided him. His people disowned him – and ultimately betrayed him, calling him a blasphemer and calling for him to be crucified.
Yet in every one of these challenges – to put them mildly – he patiently, firmly, and faithfully stuck to his mission: to prove the presence and power of the kingdom of God here and now. And it was precisely because of these challenges that he was able to demonstrate so conclusively and powerfully God's great love for His creation. Jesus' resurrection after the crucifixion is the consummate example of victory over the seemingly impossible.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded Christian Science and this newspaper, refers in her writings to St. Paul's description of Jesus as a star athlete of sorts – "the author and finisher of our faith" (see The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 258). The verse from Hebrews that precedes that characterization offers a beautiful metaphor for today's marathoners, declaring, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (12:1). The Greek word translated "patience" is defined by "Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible" as "cheerful (or hopeful) endurance."
Mrs. Eddy brought out this quality when she wrote: "If your endeavors are beset by fearful odds, and you receive no present reward, go not back to error, nor become a sluggard in the race. When the smoke of battle clears away, you will discern the good you have done, and receive according to your deserving" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 22).
So what is the race the Bible and Science and Health refer to? One dictionary defines it, in part, as a progress, a course, a movement, or progression of any kind. Isn't the race then our progress toward any goal and the course we are taking to achieve it?
No matter what your path and purpose are, you're bound to come upon tough climbs. In running, those may be hills or even mountains. In life, they may be fear of failure, pressure, stress, intimidation, procrastination, apathy, or distraction. But by looking to Jesus – the "author and finisher of our faith," who exemplified the wellspring of patience, joy, and strength that God gives each of us as His children – we can triumph in the race of life. Through "cheerful endurance," we can challenge limitations and discover with exhilaration the God-sent love, calm, confidence, activity, joy, and discipline that mark the upward way.