Running To Die.1
"In order to kill yourself running, you first have to train yourself to be a good runner."
Hmm. I guess that's true. Didn't really think of it until I read it. The funny thing is that I first read this line somewhere back around 1989. It's an austere idea to be sure. Novelist Paul Auster was well named, as his are not the shiniest stories to read. I had to look this quote up on the internet to get it exactly right for this blog, but Auster's vision of people running in order to die has stayed with me all these years. I remember reading In the Country of Last Things and being confused by these characters. They formed what was essentially a cult in the society portrayed in the story. They struck me as ridiculous. Who would do this? Running is usually an act of self-preservation. We run for health, we run to catch the train, we run to save others or ourselves from danger. Surely we wouldn't run to kill ourselves...
It was some time later, years perhaps, that the penny dropped. I was running to die. We were all running to die! But from what?
I had come to faith in Christ in my early teens. Almost immediately, however, I put on my running shoes and took off in the opposite direction from God! I didn't realize it at the time but another penny had dropped - the realization that my life was not my own. There was a creator who made me and who loved me but who had plans for me. These plans were not my plans and so I ran. For the next ten years my faith in God never wavered. Yet I ran from him, I deafened myself to his call, and I lived a life that, externally, showed no sign of the conviction that glowed steadfastly in my heart. I was on the lam.
What I didn't suspect was that I was being pursued. God was on my trail because he had already made a deal with me through the waters of baptism and I had confirmed the contract a few years later. I wasn't going to get away so easily. All through my misadventures God was right there - certainly face-palming a lot, but also guarding and guiding me. He was grieved over the pain I inflicted on myself but remained faithful to his own purpose and to me.
Which brings me to a champion runner of biblical proportion - Jonah. This guy had it all: pride, prejudice, jealousy, and hardness of heart. And man could he run! Jonah and I both experienced a fascinating contradiction. As we ran from obedience to the Lord our faith never wavered. We never stopped believing, we simply stopped obeying. What better way to grieve a parent's heart? What surer path to destruction? Romans 6:20 speaks of slaves to sin as being "free from the control of righteousness." While Paul here is speaking of unbelievers, the "freedom" Christians perceive as we pursue our own desires in disobedience to God is the same as the personal liberty felt by those who do not seek him at all. It is delusional and it puts us on pace with Auster's suicide runners.
I still run from God today, but now I'm more of a short distance sprinter. I tire quickly and return to him more easily than I used to. Praise God. His grace continues to be poured out on me - grace that I cannot outpace. I often wish that I was an automaton for Christ, figuring out and doing "What Jesus Would Do" in every situation. But then love would be vanquished. And what God wants is a relationship based on love. To Jonah, the will of God for his life was a bitter, choking medicine. To Christ it was fundamental nourishment: "'My food,' said Jesus, 'is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work'" (John 4:34). I pray that we each would joyfully receive this same nourishment, and so be blessed to be a blessing.
Submitted by Fursey McCormack, Queens Parish Member.