Yesterday was one of those days when I “seesawed” between message preparation and periods of just plain inactivity to rest my eyes from the pc screen. I say “inactivity” but the mind did not stop. How to describe it? I suppose discomfort or weariness might come close. My retirement and return to a position as bivocational pastor, coupled with trying to work through the sale of our home in Kentucky and trying to adjust our living to different income begins to tax the mind’s resources. I feel at times like an old circus clown trying to learn a “new juggling routine”! The thing is, nothing I’m doing is a new experience, I’m just doing it with a set of older equipment. I do know HOW to handle the tools. That hasn’t changed. My desire and vision is still keen.
I suppose it is like the way I felt in high school when I ran the mile in track and field events. Each time I began to run I had to find the right pace to be able to round that track four times, and on the fourth still have some reserve to increase for the final push to the tape. As I reflect on those races, I don’t know what was in the minds of the other runners, but I was running to beat my own best time. Now I ask myself, “what lap are you on?” Some might say the last, but if that is true and I have not found my pace, does that mean I’m destined to struggle to the end? I think not! I’d like to think that my life is both one race and multiple ones at the same time.
For instance, when I consider the whole of my life as one race, I have run with a pace to measure out my steps in the path that God has led through my almost 67 years, 45 of them on the ministry track. Looking back, there have been times I stumbled and broke stride, but focusing on the Lord, my Pacemaker, has always brought me back in step and provided the refreshing to keep pace with the challenges. Now this last lap, as I have increased awareness of the heavenly goal, the stretched ribbon that borders that final lunge through the Gate of Victory, I am faced with the challenge of a “change of pace” to close the gap well.
It is here, on reflection, that I see the multiples in play. There have been as many races in my past as there have been the variety of ministries and tasks related to them. Each one has had its own pace and push to finish well the race before me. Each has its own regret and reward for the way it was run. Now, in what might be the final race, and this my Heavenly Coach only knows, I again strive for the pace to “run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2) And I look with increased challenge as he continued, “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (verse 3)
I just had to re-read that last passage. The Pacemaker has struck again! May I never forget that all the races have been run, all the victories have already been won. The prize is not a worldly corruptible crown, but an incorruptible one. So I will strive through a controlled walk. (I Corinthians 9:25) The track is warm from use, the day stretches out before me! I will not look back, but “…reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
My body is tired, my legs numbed in their piston-like push,
But on I plunge toward the goal set forth ahead.
The press close on my heels goads me ever forward,
Striving as one possessed, to claim the sought-for prize.
My eyes are tempted to turn and see behind,
But my mind reminds me to turn aside is to veer off course,
And thus lose ground to that,
Often unknown competitor whose breath I can almost feel,
Whose labored gasps I hear as he seeks to claim my focus.
When I feel as though I can endure no more,
And my strength draining the last dregs of energy from my cup,
Another Presence pulls beside, and then a little ahead,
Where He paces effortlessly,
A rhymn that flows unbroken, within my sight.
My mind and body respond with a new resolve,
Discovering His pace,
Allowed to rest my spirit in strong embrace.
Slowly at first, I grasp the meaning of this "race Master's" run.
It is not for His victory but mine, for His is already won.
My lungs about to burst with the depth of exhalation,
I am suddenly filled with the delight of His heart,
And running with renewed "joy of the journey"
I throw back my head, stretch forward my chest,
And utter the divine laughter of one who has seen God run!
(A poem I wrote and posted on a related blog from Sept. 20, 2008)
Praise the Lord! Oh, my dear brothers and others, be encouraged, for your ministry is not in vain in the Lord!