The Boston Marathon is this Monday. I'm not a runner - unless I'm late - but I find the fact that marathon season has arrived exciting. It means we've also arrived at spring in New England. Goodbye snow and blustery cold.
Since my wife and I moved about a month ago, we're far from the marathon route, but we used to live just a couple of blocks away. It was fun to make the short walk up the street to see the tens of thousands of marathoners in action. You could literally stand inches from them as they raced by, and see the looks on their faces. It was unmistakable: focus.
What a trained long-distance runner strives for is familiar to anyone who has seriously pursued a goal: a good start, a steady pace, endurance, and a victorious finish. These outcomes are the result of focus. Distractions, detours, anything that might impede straight-ahead progress, needs to be put aside, whether you're running a marathon, starting an important project, or just trying to live a better life.
The author of Hebrews must have figured this out when he used the example of running a race to show the importance of staying focused. He wrote: "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:1, 2).
It's natural to want to put aside whatever would interfere with living a better life, especially if you're interested in living the kind of life that Jesus showed is possible to live. Think of his unparalleled success in healing those believed to be unhealable and saving those thought to be unsavable.
One of Jesus' greatest legacies is his example that a good life doesn't have to be - and in fact isn't - an exception to the way things are. Man is the outcome of the all-good God and never for a moment is separated from goodness. That's essentially what Jesus taught and lived.
Bringing this standard out in one's own life, whether in being victorious over some long-standing physical trouble, catching a glimpse of a higher purpose, or experiencing more enriching relationships, is a life-course we all inherently want to follow.
We may not recognize as weights, however, the things that would hold us back.
What about things that trivialize our lives - endless gossip, hour after hour of meaningless television watching, always seeking out some form of amusement? Such things reinforce the notion that we're merely material creatures who only need to pass the time. Letting mindless activities take the lead in our lives acts like a weight. They keep us from having higher aims and growing spiritually, which in turn make us better workers, better parents or grandparents, better friends and citizens, and better healers.
Christian Science reminds people where the focus should be for anyone who wants to claim the prize of a healthy and fulfilling life. The course to run is one that its founder, Mary Baker Eddy, got to know firsthand and that she was questioned about repeatedly because of the breadth of her experience and her victories in the toughest of human circumstances. "How can I progress?" people would ask her. "How can I grow? How can I heal these troubles?"
She had an answer, and no doubt hoped that people who truly wanted to advance in their lives would, as she had, take that answer to heart and live accordingly. In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" she wrote: "If the disciple is advancing spiritually, he is striving to enter in. He constantly turns away from material sense, and looks towards the imperishable things of Spirit. If honest, he will be in earnest from the start, and gain a little each day in the right direction, until at last he finishes his course with joy" (page 21).
Good guidance from the start. And a refreshing cup of cold water on the way to the finish.
Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee....
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Christian Science Hymnal, No. 324