Monday, April 2, 2012

Good Enough (or Not?): James 1:22

Despite running my best half marathon ever--whether it truly was 13.1 or as most of us with GPS devices had it closer to 13.25--I have been pondering whether I raced, "hard enough." Why has this been bugging me when it is not like I am on a competitive team? When I tell myself, "You are only competing to get your own best time?" When, if I had placed one higher I would not have been drawn to Psalm 18 yesterday? When I really should be considering the race an accomplishment?

While teaching Sunday school yesterday, I figured out why. It came to me as I was mostly thinking. We have two third grade classes, and yesterday we all met together. The other teacher took the lead while I helped, so I had time to think. And what I realized was that there is a key difference between good enough and best. On report cards when I was in third grade we had satisfactory and outstanding. The key question is whether satisfactory is good enough. If I could have done better but didn't what does that say?

And it all comes back to the story of St Sebastian. The story tells us (regardless of whether it is fact or just a story) that there was one attempt on his life that he survived. I don't know enough about the stories of various saints to know whether being "almost a martyr" is enough to get sainthood, but he may have been named a saint just for the recovery from the archers. Who knows? The key is once he recovered he didn't just sit back and say, "I've done enough." He continued on the path to argue for God.

So, I've set two personal bests for the year. While I have reasons for not running another full marathon this year, what is my attitude toward another half marathon. If I were to run another, would it be "just for fun"? Would it be "to pace a friend"? Or would I run it to try to continue to improve?  Have I become complacent?

On the one hand, I have to realize that at some point I will plateau. I guess I am stuck trying to figure out whether to anticipate that plateau or to always push myself as hard as I can unless I am purposefully pacing a friend. I once asked myself, "If I don't push as hard as I can, why bother registering for and running a race rather than just going out for a Saturday jog?" If I stop asking myself that question, what does it mean? And what would it mean if I only went out for jogs either by myself or with a group but never pushed myself to my limits?

And, of course, all this comes back to general spirituality in ways that extend well beyond the story of St. Sebastian for me. Religion is not supposed to be about just hearing and passively observing. Religion is not supposed to be complacent.  Religion is supposed to be about doing. Take James 1:22:

Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.

A good lesson to take forward for life in general. Maybe, once again, I have to think about which activities and how many activities. But whatever activities I undertake should be whole hearted rather than half-assed (excuse the language but there is no better expression I could think of to end today's entry).

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