Breaking the pain barrier
Twelve years of competitive cross-country skiing were drawing to a close for her. It was time to stop living out of suitcases and settle down, she told me on the eve of her final race. Watching her meticulously clean and scrape her skis, I asked this former Olympian and many times national champion a question that in the course of my own racing I'd bumped against many times. "How do you deal with the pain?" With a grueling fifty-kilometer race coming up the next day for both of us, it was no idle query. I'll never forget her response.
"If I'm hurting during a race, it usually means I'm having a bad day," she confided. "In my best races I really don't feel anything. It's almost as if something more than me is doing it."
Her answer shouldn't have surprised me. I knew that she, like me, accepted the truth of Paul's statement, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." n1 With this acceptance, mortal limitations recede and the capacities of one's Christ-imbued identity begin to surface.
n1 Philippians 4:13.
But how remote such statements had seemed when a steep uphill had left me wobbly-kneed and gasping for breath. While paying mental lip service to spiritaul truths of man's strength under God, I'd become unconsciously convinced that the real answer lay in heavier dosages of training and a more resolute exertion of willpower -- emphasizing a mortal rather than spiritual selfhood.
But in the opening sentence of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,m Mary Baker Eddy n2 makes a statement that undercuts such reasoning and points to a higher and more joyous basis for endeavor: "To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings." n3 The blessings we reap by leaning on God are not material rewards for model behavior but genuine insight into immortal being, indisputable evidence that man is God's ceaselessly harmonious expression.
n2 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science
n3 Science and Health,m p. vii
For an athlete, realizing his or her true character as God's reflection doesn't mean being lazy during the weeks and months prior to competition and then pleading to God for impressive results. Such an attitude certainly doesn't bring thought into line with the will of divine Love, and to someone holding such an attitude, severe disappointment would indeed be a blessing. The consistency and self-discipline required in training are vital. They involve a subjugation of mortal lethargy that is indispensable in making room for spiritual understanding.
The willingness to rely on a divine source -- a power and Love appreciable only to spiritual sense -- allows the strengthening nature of spiritual reality to appear in our lives. And because this reality is all that is real now,m we can begin to experience more and more of it today. But this will happen only to the degree we're willing to shuck off a belief of finite, material selfhood as either adequate or inadequate and really lean.m
That word was the basis of my approach to the next day's race. The talk with my racer friend the night before had convinced me of the efficacy of total and childlike reliance on God for stamina, joy, and action unhampered by the fear of fatigue and pain. I decided not only to try it but wholeheartedly to stick with it.
How did the race turn out? While I didn't come close to winning, it was probably my finest race in years -- and certainly the most exalting. I felt keenly the truth of Christ Jesus' words: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." n 4
n4 Matthew 11:28, 29.
Only as we become "meek and lowly" -- as we refuse to rely on a belief of mortal strength or personal ability and instead lean with complete trust and obedience on God's ever-present, sustaining love, can we find genuine release from pain or fatigue. Only then is an endeavor of any kind crowned with spiritual victory. In the long run -- in the tough but glorious marathon of human existence --no other victory really matters. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Before her pain came, she was delivered of a man child. Isaiah 6 6:7