Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Running for Our Lives
During my morning walk today, a young woman jogged across my path out of nowhere. I admired her swiftness and energy, not to mention her 20-something toned legs. She turned up her driveway, ran in place until she got her door open, then darted back and forth a couple of times in front of her living room picture window before disappearing.
I wondered if she forgot her sunglasses or her pepper spray. Maybe she forgot to plug in the crock pot. Maybe she’s a writer who had to jot down a great idea before it got away. Nah, I bet she just had to go to the bathroom. Whatever the reason, she wasn’t going to let it slow her down.
From my running days, I remember how important it was to keep my pace and never look back once I began. Just the quick turn of my neck to look behind me slowed me down and messed up my rhythm. “Just keep going,” I’d tell myself, “one foot in front of the other.”
Lots of us live similar to this running habit--always moving. We’ve learned to keep putting one foot in front of the other until at the end of the day, there’s hardly time for a proper cool down or stretch, which every athlete knows can lead to injury. Figuratively speaking, I bet many Americans’ feet are phantom running even in their beds! In other words, we believe we must be productive; we must prove ourselves. And by gosh, we’ll either achieve our goals or kill ourselves trying.
Americans and their infamous work ethic—alive and well, just different from the work ethic of the 1950’s. Everyone knows that family structures have changed drastically since then, and if parents have been made single parents apart from their volition, I’m not about to criticize what they do to survive and thrive. But I can’t help wistfully recalling when fathers would typically work nine-to-five jobs and have dinner with their families every night. Weekends were devoted to mowing lawns and making family memories. My mom was a housewife in the 50’s. She says lots of people took their kids to parks for picnics and kite flying. I can’t remember the last time I drove by one of our parks and saw a family playing together. No, today, if we’re going to do a park, we go for the big-ticket theme parks with stage shows and fireworks.
Multi-tasking is a handy skill, but a lifetime of multitasking is draining. We work outside the home, share parenting responsibilities and household chores. We serve in communities, churches and schools. We take care of aging parents. We attend every soccer game/band performance that we can, capturing it all on video, as if we’ll ever slow down long enough to watch it.
Sometimes I feel guilty for being tired when I know others have a much more challenging and hectic life, but it’s the truth; I get tired. I feel guilty because subconsciously, I believe that perpetual motion is wholesome—just a shade below holy. Not necessarily so.
Jesus responded to fatigue and burnout. In the 6th chapter of the gospel of Mark, the apostles had just spent a long day serving the mass of people who followed them from place to place. Men, women and children swarmed and congested the area so that the apostles had not yet eaten that day. And that’s when God, wearing human flesh that knew hunger and tiredness, turned to his friends and said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."
I’m sure that just as sweat beads dripped off their noses, the strain of exhaustion fell from them, as well. With what relief they must have let go of their tasks and then exchanged glances that said, “The Master says it’s OK to stop now.” Maybe they plodded one aching foot in front of the other until they climbed in a little boat and drifted out on the peaceful lake. After a restorative time, they fed the legendary crowd of 5,000.
Significant do-gooding, with the right motive, is honoring to God. But significant be-ing, spending time building relationships with our Father and our families, is essential. Jesus promised us he is not a hard task master. At least once a day, we should drop whatever business we’ve taken up long enough to close our eyes, drag our fingertips in the cool lake and rest with the Master. Sometimes he whispers, “Working miracles can wait.”