My Olympic marathon

"If you will stop and ask yourselves why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you, that it is neither through ignorance or inability, but purely because you have never thoroughly intended it." ~ William Law, 1686-1761

I have qualified to run a race. Just like an Olympic athlete, I faced a test - a qualifying contest, if you will - to obtain my ticket to the Big Show, heaven. In this case, the test involved faith, not physical prowess. I got my ticket, through belief in the incomprehensible and all-surpassing grace of God in sending His Son to die on the cross and bear the penalty for my sin. To qualify is an accomplishment - something not every human will do. But that doesn't mean my race has been run, or won! I am still in the process of running it - a marathon, it seems. When I get to the Judgment Seat of Christ (the Olympics of Faith, for a believer like myself), I will find out how my performance measures up. Not that I might gain entry into heaven, but that I might cast my rewards at the feet of Jesus in thanks.

I was pondering my "qualifying events" and the early stages of my marathon this evening while I cuddled my children as they fell asleep. I was 'reborn' at five, when I "so lightly invoked that Great spirit", but it wasn't until my college years that I experienced the oceanic, immeasurable depth of the blackness of my sin problem, and knew the incredible void of sorrow and despair apart from God. I re-invested myself in the Christian faith, and life, in the late years of my college experience and have experienced a gentle, yet unshakable, pull from my Savior ever since. Now is the toughest part so far: that middle milepost of the marathon that finds me winded, muscles burning, at the end of my endurance (and my desire) to continue to fight through the obstacles lined up before me. There are moments in these past weeks when I could easily surrender (and at times do) to the temptation to bitterness, indifference, jagged sorrow, disbelief, anger, or confusion. What anchors me is not my own persistence, my own will. I do desire to make a beginning, to make a start, as Elisabeth Elliot has so eloquently put it. But the true anchor is that draw my Savior is placing in my heart, the victory of the Holy Spirit, long tenant of my innermost being, now slowly exercising power over the presence of sin, that present tense salvation promised to those who abide in Him (John 15:4-5).

Most can continue to exist at the same level of intimacy with Christ for only so long. He will pull you closer, sometimes gently and inexorably, or through crushing circumstances that wring out your human potential like a dirty dishrag. I am that dishrag, only useful today when dredged in the crystal water of my Savior's forgiveness and the replenishment of His Living water. I have qualified, I am running, and now I must continue. It is only God who knows when I finish, only He that can measure what strength I require to finish strong. And in Him I am trusting, today and - with prayer - tomorrow and forever until this wretched race is complete. I intend it, more thoroughly today than ever before.

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed to hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

~ Stuart Townend, How Deep the Father's Love for Us