On my regular 10-kilometer run I cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon going the opposite way of the race, passing Trinity Church, Copley Square, Old South Church, the magnificent Boston Public Library. I did the route with a good friend the day before this year’s marathon, and did it as closely as I could four days after, thanking police who were still standing guard at the cordoned-off streets in the surrounding blocks.
I asked myself, Would running in Boston be the same after the bombing of this year’s marathon? Would these streets, hallowed by 117 years of pure grit and determination of runners completing a grueling course, still feel the same after the tragedy and loss?
While various spiritual traditions help us deal with tragedy, as a Christian I’ve been comforted by these words: “[L]et 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” (Hebrews 12:1, 2).
This passage speaks to me of the spiritual fact that what happened on Massachusetts’ Patriots’ Day is not the final word. It’s not physically crossing that storied line on Boylston Street that constitutes finishing the race. Rather, the Christ, which Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy defines as “the true idea voicing good” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” p. 332), has already given us that sense of completeness, of satisfaction, and of having reached home after a challenging course. Christ, as the author and finisher of that race, means that beyond the human appearance of things, not one runner – in a marathon or in life in general – can ever be deprived of the deep, lasting satisfaction of having run well.
Because of the preciousness of every individual, of each runner, I always look forward to The Boston Globe’s publishing the names and finishing times of the some 20,000 official participants in the race. In this regard, once, when Jesus sent his disciples out to heal, they returned rejoicing because of the success that they had experienced. He said to them, “Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).
Each of the names of the marathon runners, as well as those who were injured and those who lost their lives, is “written in heaven.” Truly God sees each of those wonderful runners and the organizers, volunteers, and supporters, too, as free, eternal, and harmonious. The real, permanent identity of each of us isn’t found in age, color, or in anything physical. God knows each of us to be His spiritual image and likeness, unchangingly perfect and complete, with our names indeed written in heaven.
In that book by Mrs. Eddy mentioned earlier, in the chapter “Footsteps of Truth,” the author talks about overcoming limitations associated with fatigue, aging, and other areas of human thought. She quotes the passage from Isaiah about running without being weary, walking and not fainting. The chapter finishes on this note of comfort: “Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God” (p. 254). It can strengthen us to know that in all our striving to cross life’s finish lines, our starting point is that we are already unchangingly at home as the “guests of God.”
Surely what President Obama said at the interfaith service three days after the marathon about those with injuries running again was inspiring and heartening. And I know that what will give me the courage to run down Boylston Street with joy, right past where so many stories of heroism and selflessness unfolded and began to unfold, is the idea that in a sense the run of each man and woman has never been interrupted. Every individual – runner, spectator, first responder, and everyone involved – as the reflection of God, is and always will be “running” in the kingdom of heaven, under God’s present government. That is the true nature of identity – spiritual, whole, and free – here and now.
If you’re a runner, in Boston or in any other place, you surely have a right to run with joy.