This weekend the New York Marathon - the biggest in the world - will be run through the city's five boroughs.
Apart from the star athletes who will be racing for big money and fast times, there will be about 29,000 others pounding through the streets on foot and in wheelchairs, hoping to finish several hours later amid the autumnal reds and golds of Central Park. Their medals will not be gold, but everything else about their experience will be; and the glow of satisfaction will linger far longer than the discomfort of tired limbs.
I saw this kind of satisfaction last April during a different marathon in a different city. Outside the Christian Science Center there were huge signboards welcoming runners to the 101st Boston Marathon. The posters quoted a scriptural passage familiar to many people who have faced tests of endurance and courage: "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint" (Isa. 40:31). Below that, the sign said: "The Christian Science Center welcomes Boston Marathon runners, volunteers, and fans. We salute you!"
One of the participants, who ran 467th in what had been his 10th Boston race, told us the greeting had meant a lot to those who saw it. To him it was a timely reminder that God was his real source of strength, not just in the race but in every aspect of daily life. "For me," he said, "every race is an opportunity to glorify God in the way described in the Apostle Paul's words to the Corinthians: 'Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's' [I Cor. 6:20]. The closer we come to that goal," he added, "the more we'll be freed from the burdens and limitations of the material senses."
The point that runner was making was that we should consistently strive to correct the very common picture of many mortals, with many minds, in fierce competition - of ourselves as material and not spiritual. The man of God's creating (every man, woman, and child) is free, healthy, tireless, always a winner; the limitations of mortal existence have no hold on man, the spiritual reflection of God. Spirit, God, can no more be glorified in sickness or fatigue than honesty can be glorified in dishonesty.
Whether you're a participant, a roadside supporter of one of the runners, or an armchair television viewer on Marathon day, you'll see that an event of this kind is much more than just a stiff test of athleticism, endurance, and courage; it's more than an international summit that draws competitors from around the globe. It is an individual summit, an opportunity to achieve personal victories and overcome limitations of every kind.
Road races have long been viewed as metaphors for life; and so they are. In our individual lives we are all capable of doing more than we realize, especially when we have faith in God's omnipotence and omnipresence, and when we listen for His guidance.
The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in her book "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures": "Spirit, God, is heard when the senses are silent. We are all capable of more than we do. The influence or action of Soul confers a freedom, which explains the phenomena of improvisation and the fervor of untutored lips" (Pg. 89).
As the offspring of an all-knowing, all-loving God, or Soul (a helpful synonym Christian Science uses for God), we reflect all of His qualities - reflect, not fight or compete for a share of them! And they are a birthright, available to everyone who accepts and utilizes them. If you ever feel you lack strength, purpose, tenacity, joy, or health, you can affirm that as God's child you forever embody these qualities. Knowing this, you can expect to exhibit them in your life.
No one expressed these qualities better than Christ Jesus, who truly showed mankind the way to achieve all good. When he was no older than 12 years of age, he was able to answer the questions of respected teachers in the temple. Later, he was tireless in his healing ministry. On foot in the countryside, among throngs of people, he overcame time and distance. More important, he overcame sin, disease - and death. He gained the ultimate victory!