On Running

Running has been an important part of my spiritual journey. When I run, this tends to be the time of prayer and meditation. While running I have also been blessed with feeling connected with God, perhaps as I beheld the sun rising in the desert, perhaps as I ran alone along an Irish beach.

Running has become the journey metaphor that my unconscious mind has used to comment on how I am doing on the spiritual path. Thus, in my dream world, as I run in a race I find myself distracted, constantly trying to find or get back on the course.

We have every reason to believe that St. Paul was a runner. He uses running as a metaphor on several occasions, most memorably when he reflects “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” I can’t claim that I have kept the faith but Paul’s metaphor gives me hope that I can. Indeed running a spiritual race involves staying focused and noting but not caving into pain.

I have run in three marathons including the New York City Marathon in 2001, just weeks after the attacks of 9/11. That marathon in particular was a time of reflection on senseless violence. Where was God in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, or a field in Pennsylvania? Was it God who allowed some to live and others to die?

Senseless violence stands as a most difficult issue for anyone on a spiritual journey. And so this week we are faced with more senseless violence. Where indeed was God at the finish line of the Boston Marathon?

One of the indelible images from last Monday was of an older woman kneeling in prayer, a look of anguish on her face. In such times, this is what many do — turn to God for solace or for some understanding. I wish I had her faith.

I stumble often on my spiritual marathon and events like last Monday’s make me pause, trying to make sense, trying to decide for myself where God was at that finish line.

And so, because of this metaphor of running, I am very wary of those who talk about a spiritual journey as though it is some sort of walk in the park. It’s not! It’s a marathon, long and tiring with many of us hanging on hoping we can say “I have finished the race”.

Run strong, Boston!

Reflection: Do you have a metaphor for your spiritual journey?

About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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7 Responses to On Running

  1. jeglatter says:

    🙂 I wake up a half an hour before sunrise, so I can run through it every morning. I chant during this part of my run and it is the favorite part of my day in many many ways. The metaphor for my spiritual journey would be in every blooming rose I see. LOVE your blog. -Jennifer

  2. Susan says:

    My spiritual journey has been much more like a mountain climb than a marathon. Climbing Mount Everest, with an avalanche here and there is the metaphore that comes to mind. God was there at the finish line at the Boston marathon. He saw everything. He will comfort the grieving. This life is transitory. His kingdom is forever. I truly wish that He had created us in such a way that we could not wreck havoc and destruction on others, where we could only choose the right thing and not the cruel and evil thing to do. Then all would be well in this life and in this world. But He must have his reasons. So I believe that He was working through a number of people at the marathon, just as He worked through Victor Frankl in the Concentration Camps of Germany.

  3. pattersonben says:

    I can’t say I really know what my metaphor is for my spiritual journey. But I know what it’s not: it’s not a sprint, and it’s not a competitive race against others. Perhaps it is like a hike…at times spatial and warm and free, and at other times, close and cold and overshadowed. It is both the people I share it with, and the times I’m alone.

    Thanks so much for this post this week, after everything that’s happened. I will be somewhere on the course with you.

  4. Yes Rich, I have a metaphor. For me, it is very much about weaving and unraveling. I just get something woven, and then it unravels and has to be re-woven, but the meaning is found in the re-making of what has been unraveled. Without the un-raveling, there can’t be re-making. The ego weaves something, and then the sacred Self has to unravel it and re-make it. You’re right. It’s definitely not a walk in the park, but a tedious yet very exciting journey.

  5. Rose Mathews says:

    I wish I had the fortitude to running like you and my son, Michael. I can’t say that I truly have a metaphor, either. In raising my three children, housework, and now as a widow, I think of our Blessed Mother all the time. I think of her daily work and the simple things that she had to do for her family, i.e., cooking, cleaning, washing their clothes. In the daily sufferings, I remember our Lord’s Passion and shut my mouth! And even though I am not a runner, I do so feel like St. Paul in having fought the good fight, run the race, and kept the faith. For all the “things” that happening when my husband and I were raising our children, losing Greg, and many other struggles yet to come, I have kept and will continue to keep the faith.

    Thanks again, Rich!

  6. Ned Powell says:

    I also have been a runner since 1976 or 1977; and have felt very similar experiences; it is my daily quiet and very personal. During Eithne’s illness and following her death; my daily time running gained even more signifiance. In Eithne’s way, she too ran the good race.
    Love you, my brother.

  7. nice post,thanks for share.

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