Runners think about many things while running. Over a long haul, many runners, myself included, purposefully think about almost anything that will take their thoughts away from the body. Thinking about your body while running can be counterproductive.
Once on a distance run, out of the blue I recalled a scene from the Tom Wolfe novel "A Man in Full," which I had read two or three years before. In Wolfe's story one of the main characters, Roger White, attends a political rally at an inner-city church in Atlanta. The church is filled to capacity, and the elated audience is expressing its support for mayoral candidate André Fleet by chanting "Gotcha back, gotcha back, gotcha back." Mr. White, an ally of the current mayor, eventually realizes that what the congregation is repeating ("Got your back") is an Atlanta street expression for "I'm behind you ... and I'll protect you against attacks from the rear."
Continuing my run, and looking for some spiritual insight to offset mounting fatigue, I started to recite the 23rd Psalm. The sixth verse of this psalm reads "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
I realized that this verse could be roughly interpreted to mean "gotcha back" - that God is eternally looking out for us as His children and guarding us from subtle unseen attacks of all types, because we perpetually dwell in the house of the Lord.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discover of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, defines house as consciousness. In her primary work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," she interprets this verse as "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [Love] for ever" (pg. 578). Embracing this thought, I immediately felt renewed energy and lightness, and I finished the distance almost a full minute under my previous best time.
The Bible contains numerous instances of God's backing of His children. Isaiah tells us, "Thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward [rearguard]." And "Thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am" (Isa. 58:8, 9). Indeed, each of us is ever at one with God and forever dearly loved and held securely as an idea of God, divine Love.
A number of years ago, when I was a graduate student, I was doing a special assignment in a large city. Since I would be there for only two months, a fellow student and I rented a room in the home of an elderly woman.
One weekend night, my friend went back to the university, but I stayed out. Returning home very late, I quietly opened the front door to the house. I felt uneasy as I started to enter the front hallway, and then I heard an almost audible voice in my thought telling me very strongly to whistle. I obeyed.
When I looked up, I saw my landlady standing at the top of the staircase, pointing a gun at me. She said later that she was just starting to squeeze the trigger when she heard me whistle. She apologized and explained that a few weeks prior to our renting the room she had been robbed and that she had bought a pistol and had taken training in how to use it.
There was no apparent reason for me to whistle at 2:00 in the morning. In fact, I rarely whistled at all, but very soon I realized that it was God backing me up and protecting me from an attack. And am I grateful that I listened.
For he shall give
his angels charge over thee,
to keep thee in all thy ways.
They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Psalm 91:11, 12