(This is the fifth and final post in a series about why spiritual transformation is impeded, blocked, and short-circuited in our lives. You can read Part 1 , Part 2 , Part 3, and Part 4 here.) In 2010, I ran the Chicago Marathon. I know what you're asking, "Why in the name of all that's holy would you do that?"
Strangely, that was the question I asked myself one Saturday in July.
I was in week # something of my training program, and the run that day was a 13 miler. Excited yet?
I went to my favorite trail, laced up, stretched out, downed a GU packet, and went off. The miles clicked by and it was actually an enjoyable time out in God's creation. Then the sun rose high, hot, and potent and with the sweat beading on the back of my arms and neck I drained my water bottles within the first 8 miles.
Houston, we have a problem.
It came as they said it would, all the runner's magazines and online journals. I "bonked" - I hit the place where my body's energy and effort came to its end because it had no fuel or hydration left to sustain what was being taken out by my run. I stopped. My socks actually squished with each step. I called my wife and, humiliated, said, "It's going to take a while. I have to walk back to the car." Excruciating. Humiliating. Frightening.
Yet the next week I came out again for a 15 miler. Why? Why would I subject myself to a longer run?
I was better prepared with more water. I started a bit earlier to avoid the hotter sun - that meant getting out of bed earlier on a Saturday.
The fair question is "Why all the sacrifice? Why all that planning and thinking? Why, when you have failed, do you return and after careful consideration, do it all again?" Why would a logical (mostly), rational adult do such a thing?
It was because on 10.10.2010, standing with my knees trembling and salt from my sweat dried around my ears and eyes, I could say I had run further than I was created to run. The vision was strong. Here's the secret:
The greatest obstacle to transformation in Christlikeness, for most of us, is simply that we don't believe it's worth it.
Wait, don't protest. I know that most "good people" or "good Christians" (whatever that means) would say "Yes, I want transformation. I don't like my life this way, and I want to become what God has for me."
But do you really? If so, there are centuries of giants of the faith who are beckoning you toward the vision. Get up early. Put Scripture to mind. Learn to fast, learn to love silence and solitude, learn to love your enemies and bless those who curse you. Learn how good it could be to live without anger or lust or any of those things.
Transformation into Christlikeness is something we'd love to see. We'd love to be more like Jesus, truly. But loving to is not the same as counting the cost and flinging ourselves headlong into the process.
But what if I fail?
What if I had given up after the 13 mile bonk? What if inventors, creators, Galilean fishermen, etc. had given up when they failed? Besides, if the Spirit of God has promised to meet us in this process then what is failure anyway except for learning new ways around old obstacles?
So as we close this series, let me ask - how deeply do you long for transformation? How powerful is the vision of being like Jesus to you today? Do you believe it's possible? Do you, honestly, in the deepest parts of your being believe that living your life as Jesus would if He were you is the best possible thing that could happen?
And the follow up: What is worth giving up in order to see that happen?
Sleep? Presumed respect in the eyes of others? Time? A well-formed personal agenda? Habits of escape and comfort? Food? Noise? Economic status?
We all love transformation into Christlikeness, but we must come to the point where we love it enough to "bonk" - and come back again, even hungrier than before to learn the "unforced rhythms of grace" of Jesus? (Matt. 11:28-30, MSG)