Running free

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I'm an avid runner, and I volunteer every year to guide disabled runners from the Achilles Track Club in the New York City Marathon. At a reception in the fall of 1998, an Achilles official told me about a blind runner from Myanmar (formerly Burma) who had wanted to become the first person from his homeland to run in this marathon. "He's a Christian seminary student in Yangon," the official said. "He's been training for three years but has no money and no passport, and getting a US visa for Myanmar citizens is virtually impossible."

Bells started going off in my head. "I'll get him to New York," I said. "Are you out of your mind?" my wife said after I told her about the idea later that night. "No way is that happening."

I wasn't fazed. I didn't feel as though I had to push this thing through, but I had an intuition that it was a time to trust that God is omnipotent, good, and perpetually loving each of His children. Immigration officers and dollar bills don't limit God's movement, I reasoned, so they can't limit the activity of His reflection, or children. If this project was truly beneficial, if it was part of God's will and not just my will, then the runner would get to New York. I prayed daily - not to effect a particular outcome, but to humbly understand that God is Love and that God is in control of me, the Myanmar runner, potential sponsors, government officials, and everybody else in the world. I also found great inspiration in a Bible verse: "... we know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28).

That was liberating. My job was to love God - to appreciate God; to recognize God as the only source of power in the universe - and by doing this, all things would "work together for good." Most important, I understood that good in this situation wasn't necessarily my plan. It was God's plan, and He would naturally unfold it to me.

I thought about how we're each spiritual ideas who reflect God's spiritual wealth, health, and freedom. Shortly after I really grasped this concept clearly, three sponsors signed up to fund the project. Prayer also played a key role in securing the runner's passport.

Then, late last summer, I got a somber e-mail - the runner had been denied his passport. I clung to the spiritual truths that had helped us all along the way. I affirmed, in an e-mail, "God has never denied anything good for His children. That's a law we can trust, expecting good." A couple of weeks later, the runner received his passport.

The US visa was our final, and most difficult, obstacle. The day after my wife and I arrived in Yangon, we went to the US embassy. "Sorry," a woman in the visa office said, "the person you need to see is on vacation. Come back next month."

I turned to see my wife and the runner with ashen faces. I silently prayed,"God is all. God is right here, right now. You, God, not me and not a visa officer, are governing."

Moments later, I was speaking with a substitute visa officer, and after a 30-minute interview, he agreed to issue the visa. Hooray! The next day we returned to the embassy, but the officer wasn't happy. The runner had been denied a US visa in 1998, and the officer wanted to investigate.

Back at our hotel, we again encouraged each other with ideas about God's all-powerful government. I read this from "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," written by the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy: "The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God ..." (pg. 1). We decided that we both needed to have this absolute faith in God's goodness. We denied the possibility that there ever was, or could be, any other power.

It wasn't an easy few days of waiting, but our prayers provided a lot of comfort. Three days later, the officer issued the visa. After a 24-hour journey to New York and a week of sightseeing, the runner, with three other men and me as guides, finished the marathon in just under five hours. A few days later, I asked the runner what he had learned over the past few years. "I learn," he said, "that I am rich. I am a rich man because God is rich, and He shares everything He has with me." With you and me, too.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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