At 9am each morning I attend a Zoom prayer meeting. They are often built around a very short word brought by whoever is leading, inspired by an event or a scripture or something else that has spoken to them.
This morning’s was very thought provoking. The lady leading had been talking about the busy weekend she had had doing stuff with church and how she was hoping for a quieter couple of days. The friend she was talking to asked if she was becoming one of those lukewarm Christians who tick a box and then want time off.
This got me thinking about St Paul and running the race. First off the lukewarm comment was incredibly unfair to the lady in question who, out of necessity, had just finished, metaphorically, running a marathon at a sprint over the weekend just in terms of church work. Those are the two options in running the race for most Christians though, do you run a series of sprints hoping for a rest in between? Or do you approach it like a marathon? Do you pace yourself throughout your Christian life (the race) so that you can be a constant worker.
The general consensus when you read Christian thought on this matter is that you treat it like a marathon, with a target of finishing the race. You don’t over-extend yourself and hopefully everything gets done. I think this one size fits all approach is a mistake though. I think there are other, valid approaches that are equally necessary. Approaches that allow for peoples giftings and personalities.
The marathon Runner is slow and steady and dependable. If everything worked like clockwork marathon runners would be all we need. But it doesn’t.
There are times when there’s a lot going on, often at short notice or needed in a short window of time. Case in point. At my home church this weekend there was a 30ft Christmas tree to be erected outside, complex tableaux to be set up in 4 windows showing elements of the Nativity story, all of which had to be lit, the church was also involved in distributing Fareshare food in the local community. All of this had to be co-ordinated so that it was done by small family groups to stay within regulations. It needed sprinters. It needed people who would go in and create what was needed in a relatively short space of intense work time and then collapse. It needed people working swiftly, within pastoral and creative giftings to get the job done and then take a breath until the next thing that calling on their gifts happened. Sprinters work well with spontaneity.
There’s a third kind of person in the race that often gets forgotten too. The head in the clouds wanderer. The head in the clouds wanderer often is the one who brings the creative ideas that the sprinters make happen. The wanderer says “Ooh. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a tree outside for the community to decorate.” The sprinters then dash off, get a tree and figure out someway to secure it outside the church building. The marathon runners meanwhile have been quietly working behind the scenes to make sure there is a church building to be a home to the tree.
We are running a race as Christians but in a way we are all running our own race and we need to make allowances for the differences in those races.
You could view Jesus’s ministry as a three year marathon but he took breaks to pray and recharge his batteries so you could also view it as a series of sprints. He also spent large periods of time wandering from place to place just thinking and praying. If Jesus can be more than one thing I’m sure it is okay for us to be different types of racers as well.