With only a bit of vim and vigor but suited up in Olympian runner’s spandex (moving right along), stretching out on the track like the others around me, putting on a game face, checking my shoelaces and my pinned-on runner’s number, I contemplate the 10,000 meters awaiting me. The call comes for Position. I get down into the squat with a foot braced against the thingamajig. The gun signals takeoff. I’m off, but something’s not right. The others are way ahead of me within seconds, now around the first bend in the track and out of sight. Humiliated, I realize that I’m not going to make it to the first bend, as my chest is heaving, breathing ragged, my legs cramping, my eyesight blurring. Is that sweat, or are those tears? Suddenly two men with a stretcher appear above me, I’m loaded up and onto it and whisked out of sight of the thousands in the stands. My hopes for Olympic glory evaporate before the IV drip begins. But what went wrong? I had the desire, the suit, the shoes, the proper number, the right starting position. Someone is overheard asking about my training, my trainer. Training? Trainer?

Because our journey of discipleship is much longer than 10,000 meters, training with a trainer is highly recommended. Because our nature is tragically tied to Adam in all his inglorious fallenness, overcoming those frailties common to all mankind is critically important. Desire fails us (ie. Romans 7). Ego defeats us (ie. Philippians 2). Our family of origin weighs us down (ie. Matthew 19:29). Our lived history condemns us (ie. 1 Corinthians 15:9). When we look to Jesus we see our unblemished example, our Encourager-in-Chief, our perfect Trainer who guarantees to be by our side, keeping us upright, until our arrival at the finish line. Along the way, his timely, if ‘wait for it,’ interventions cancel the stuff we’ve been lugging around on our shoulders, in our hearts, in our souls. We discover the multi-layered truth of his declaration: ‘If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.’

Like my Olympic dream and its rigorous training requirement, closely following Jesus’ example of interacting with those around him involves a lifelong learning curve that is, at times, steeper, and of greater duration, than we ever thought manageable. That’s where he helps us most. Scripture, in a bittersweet way, tells us that his power is made complete in our weakness. Yay for his power. Boo to any weakness on our part. Ah, submission: the maturing answer.

We’re instructed throughout Scripture in how to respond in those times when the temptation is to revert to our old nature: ‘Respond gently when you are confronted and you’ll defuse the rage of another.’ Prov. 15:1.‘If your enemy is hungry, buy him lunch!’ Rom. 12:18. ‘Let [Jesus’] mindset become your motivation.’ Phil. 2:5b. and many more. Holy Spirit prodding, if we are in a heart space to listen, is our saving grace. This permanent, please-hear-me, availability comes to wash over us, softening our resistances, sweetening our tongues, and allowing us to be the Invitation. You know what? With help like this, I think I can finish this race after all!  See y’all tomorrow 10 AM, 2 PM UK, 3 PM FR.  PD

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