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?