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The Christian life: a marathon or a sprint?
Posted By Eric Sammons On November 17, 2010 @ 8:18 am In Spirituality | Comments Disabled
When I was in college, I was an enthusiastically devout Evangelical Christian (until I became an enthusiastically devout Catholic Christian). One day I met with the campus leader of Navigators, an Evangelical “para-church” organization in which I had been involved. This leader was in his thirties and had been a devout Christian since his teens and he was worried about me. He thought I was a little too enthusiastic about my faith and feared that I would soon burn out. He advised me that I needed to “settle down” a bit and not be so intense in my Christian walk; according to him, the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint, and therefore I needed to pace myself. I responded that the Christian life was a marathon but one in which we are supernaturally given grace to run it as a sprint.
Now I am much older, and hopefully wiser; in fact, I am now older than that campus leader was at the time of his advice. I have been a practicing Christian for over 23 years, 18 of them as a Catholic. Over the years I have often thought about this piece of advice and whether or not I now agreed with it.
My conclusion? I still think I was right.
It is true that we must be prepared for the long haul in our Christian life and that this involves patience. It might take years to overcome certain weaknesses and sins in our lives, and our goals for our Christian life might take decades to accomplish. But I do not think we are ever to “settle down” in our Christian walk and pace ourselves. That would be like the man who was given one talent and buried it in the ground; we are to use our talents to further the Kingdom of God at every opportunity.
Look at the lives of the Saints – did St. Francis of Assisi ever settle down? Did St. Catherine of Sienna pace herself? Did St. Ignatius of Antioch live life carefully? Not at all. These saints intensely followed our Lord with every fiber of their being every single day of their life. Although they were running a long race, they – with the help of God’s grace – ran it like a sprinter on steroids.
So if we are ever tempted to settle down for the long haul, let us remember that we should treat each day as if it is our last here on earth and run the race with intensity and fortitude. We can trust that God will always be there to give us the strength we need to last until the finish line, and we can say with St. Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
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