I really couldn’t believe what I was doing. Rusty Funk from Team World Vision was in my office asking whether he could pitch our congregation on running in the Chicago Marathon on behalf of World Vision. Each runner, responsible for their own fundraising efforts, would be running to bring clean water to villages in central Africa. I nodded, thinking about all the amazing runners we have at LaSalle. Surely these svelte athletes would be up for doing something like this.
It was all abstract. “They” would be running for “them” more than 6,000 miles away. Sure, I said. That’d be fine. I think you’ll have a responsive audience.
But Rusty kept talking. Describing his first marathon 5 years ago. He talked about the sense he’d had of God at work in him. About how he completed 26.2 miles “only through Christ who strengthened him”. “It was a life changing experience,” he said.
Throughout the next two weeks I couldn’t shake the feeling that God was saying something to me. For the last several years I’ve found it relatively easy to write checks for clean water and the like. At times I’ve gulped about a financial commitment to various ministries, but I realized, I haven’t had skin in the game, for a very long time. I haven’t been physically discomforted, or invested in a way that’s been a struggle or a discipline in a long while.
And truth be told, I hadn’t been in a place where I would most certainly fail but for the power of God.
When Rusty came to LaSalle, I signed up. Along with 16 others. With only a few “real” runners in the pack so far. It’s been three weeks of training. Almost 18 days of straight running. About 6:30 each morning you can find me panting along the lakefront. So far there’s been nothing spiritual about it. I’ve felt no holy presence of God. No deeper connection to others. In fact judging from some of the expletives I’ve blurted out along the way, some would say I’m going backwards.
But there it is. Following God sometimes takes you back before there’s any forward momentum. That’s okay. I’m in it for the long haul. 26.2 miles of a haul.