When I began running and training for a marathon, I heard a great deal about "hitting the wall." If you don't know, the "wall" is a point in a race or training run where your body decides that you have run quite far enough, thank you. For me, it came in marathon mile 21. Boom. Legs shut down, lungs rebelled, ankles throbbed. I heard Gandalf screaming at the Balrog "You shall not pass!"
The solution, many sage running experts will tell you, is simple.
Just keep running.
Thanks a lot gentlemen. That's brilliant.
In our life of following Jesus Christ, there are times of goodness and joy that we cling to like great treasure. We'd sell everything to buy the lot where it resides, and we explode with the very essence of it in both words and actions toward others.
Then there are times when it feels like hitting the wall. Where those of us who have sought God and feel confident that we have found Him suddenly begin to realize this whole life is a spiral of seeking and finding more and more, further up and further in as C.S. Lewis famously stated.
We become seekers again, challenged with the same questions and wonderings, frustrated that we are not what we know we want to be but are instead that which we're avoiding like the plague.
We become a people with unanswered questions, lighting matches in the dark night of the soul and even though we know the relationship we have with God has to change we wonder why it has to change for us and why He doesn't change and leave us the same. I guess transformation isn't necessary when you're the thoroughly good, sovereign, and omniscient Creator of all things.
When the times come when our relationship with God shifts, when Scripture seems to die on the page in front of us and our prayers are whisked away like vapor just above our heads, and when our community life with others seems more like obligation than joyful celebration, it is then we hit the wall.
And it is then when we are loved most by God.
Elijah hears the small voice when all hope has left Him (1 Kings 17).
Jeremiah is reinforced and strengthened by God as death knocks at the door.
Ezekiel sees a valley of bones come to life (Ezekiel 37) at the very moment where only bones are appropriate.
Jesus sweats blood and cries real, salty human tears over his torturous execution yet to come.
When we come to the end of ourselves, we press on. Just beyond the reach of our capillary laden, tendon-anchored and muscle-stretching arm is a very deep and potent reality.
We must hit the wall to know who we are beyond the normal devices of spirituality. Beyond consuming content, beyond memorization and attendance and fervent prayer, there is a transcendent God and we are welcomed beyond mile 21 and into something more than we could ever imagine.
Something that's worth the lung-bursting, ankle-throbbing, dark-night denying strides that take us there.
Paul says it best:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)
Friends, just keep running.