Sunday, April 1, 2012

Psalm 18

Yesterday I ran my first half marathon of the year and completed my second running goal of the year. Having reached a personal best for the marathon three weeks ago (which was enough to qualify to register for Boston and put my marathon running otherwise on hold for a while), I decided to set out to run a "post-return-to-running" (i.e. since 2009) best at each of the following distances this year--marathon, 20 miler, half marathon, 10 miler, 10K, 5K, mile. As of yesterday, I can check "half marathon" off the list. I was blessed to run a 1:33:09 (I thought :08 yesterday but the official timekeeper says :09). That was a great feeling--although I had a cramp/stitch in my right side that I have not experienced during a race in a long time.

In any case, I was 18th overall. Two straight races in which I was 18th overall leads me to see a pattern and leads me to look for a connection to my spiritual life as I enter the last week of my commitment to daily writing. (I'll continue to write, just not necessarily ever day). So, as I turned to the Bible for some type of interpretation, I looked to the Psalms (from which I have been drawing much strength and inspiration lately). Psalm 18 verses 2 and 3 (from the New American Bible Revised Edition):

He said: I love you, LORD, my strength,
LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer,
My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold!

Then, it goes on to talk about winning over enemies because of a trust in God. That is interesting, but not where I find a lot of inspiration unless I translate winning over enemies to overcoming challenges more generally. I am also drawn by verses 22-32 and 50:

For I kept the ways of the LORD; I was not disloyal to my God.
For his laws were all before me, his decrees I did not cast aside.
I was honest toward him; I was on guard against sin.
So the LORD rewarded my righteousness, the cleanness of my hands in his sight.
Toward the faithful you are faithful; to the honest man you are honest;
Toward the pure, you are pure; but to the perverse you are devious.
For humble people you save; haughty eyes you bring low.
For you, LORD, give light to my lamp; my God brightens my darkness.
With you I can rush an armed band, with my God to help I can leap a wall.
God’s way is unerring; the LORD’s promise is refined; he is a shield for all who take refuge in him.
Truly, who is God except the LORD? Who but our God is the rock?
Thus I will praise you, LORD, among the nations; I will sing praises to your name.

In these past few days when I have been challenged by the health of the family dog (whom we see as a family member even more when she is sick than when she was perfectly healthy), the strength that I draw from my belief in God is quite important.  God can be my rock of refuge and my stronghold (from verse 3).  The remainder is also important.  It is an acknowledgment of the responsibilities that come with following God.  I am not perfect--in any way, shape, or form.  But I, like the writer of the Psalm, try to guard against sin.  I try to be faithful and honest to God.  I try to be pure.  I try to be humble.  With God, I don't know that I can leap a wall, but I can run a marathon and many people would claim that the two are as difficult.  God is my rock.  And every weekend I sing praises to his name as I contribute to the worship band at our church.

This latest example of an interesting tie in between my running (or the places in races that relate to my running) and my personal and spiritual life continues to amaze me.  The gifts that we get through having an active relationship with our beliefs (whatever those beliefs may be) are astounding and are enough to life my spirits even when times are tough (saw a comment about church lifting spirits as I was channel surfing and came across a Waltons marathon on the Hallmark channel yesterday).  Perhaps, some would say, that the reason to lift ones spirits is all an illusion and I should just deal with the downsides of life.  However, I find it much more healthy for me to draw on some directed sense of beliefs, values, and spirituality to guide my life.

Each person must make the decision of whether to look for such comforts on their own.  I only hope that my journey has been interesting to others during this Lenten season. 

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