The hardest part is putting on my shoes. I’ve been running for a few years now, but I still wouldn’t call myself a runner. A less than stellar track career in Jr. High (I may have gotten a black eye running hurdles and hit someone in the head with a discus) ruined any notion of claiming an athletic title. Still, running is good for me - good for my muscles and my mind. It’s my heart exercise, improving atria, ventricles and soul. I’m not fast and sometimes my hips and heels complain, sometimes it takes everything in me to tie up my running shoes and walk out the door. But when I do, God meets me there. He dips me in His goodness and I come up breathless every time.
When I started, I could barely run for two minutes without stopping. Four years later I ran a marathon. Yesterday, I struggled through a mile and a half. Neither past inadequacies nor past successes determine if I run today. Putting my shoes on determines if I run today.
Our spiritual lives are similar. There are things in our past which could cripple us if we let them, painful memories or experiences, guilt-ridden moments we can’t let go. I used to let sin send me into a vortex of shame and hiding from God. It could last for months. I ignored Him, pretending that He didn’t notice, convincing myself that He wouldn’t want me around anyway, or that we’re both better off if we don’t see each other for a while. The problem is that solution to sin isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. The options I’ve been given are to believe God means what He says when He offers forgiveness and restoration for my confession (1 John 1:9), or not. To believe He chooses to be with me and has not rejected me (Isaiah 41:9-10) or not. The option of allowing past sin dictate my present spiritual condition has not been offered.
And, just as I cannot live in the shadows of my past failures, I cannot rely on the spotlight of past successes to light up my present spiritual life. There were moments I felt God near, closer than my own soul, moments I stood strong for Him and saw Him work in mighty ways. Those were precious moments, but they are memories now. I live in these moments, the ones the clock ticks by as I breathe and blink, and they could still go either way.
Paul talks of forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. He knew how crippling past pain can be and he knew contentment with past accomplishments was just as debilitating. Our past may influence our present circumstances (every choice has a consequence, for good and for bad), just as a steady or an inconsistent running regime influences whether I am capable now of running one mile or ten. But, my choice to run today, to live today, to serve God today is not made by looking backward, but by straining forward. I am told to stop living in the past, throwing off everything which holds me back (Hebrews 13:1), and pressing on to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of me.
I’ve read that more times than I can count, and in the haste of familiarity, my eyes have always glossed over the bit of it that arrests me now. “I press onto take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Jesus took hold of me. Wow. I have no fancy spiritual explanation for that. Just tender impressions on my heart: He grabbed me in His arms, He left heaven to scoop me up. He rescued me, He knows me, He’s got me. There is a prize, a gift so important that He dropped everything to run after me and call my name, to sweep me up, burying me deep in His chest. The prize of His presence seizes me and draws me heavenward.
And it is for that prize, that I press on. I don’t give up. I keep going. No matter what happened before, I continue knowing Him, loving Him, sharing Him. Serving, giving, listening, praying, sacrificing, running, running, running towards the One who ran to me. Today’s present is tomorrow’s past. Today’s broken world could be tomorrow’s paradise if we press on. Today’s pain could melt into tomorrow’s healing if we press on. Today’s sorrow could become tomorrow’s joy if we press on. So, tie your shoes, my friend. Put on your big girl pants, cowboy up, and forget what happened yesterday - tomorrow’s coming and it starts today. Let’s press on.