For the last several weeks, I’ve tried to not think about what happened in Boston. I’ve definitely tried to avoid writing about it. So much as already been said and written more eloquently than I can state. As with many things, though, I’m drawn to write in order to have a more constructive frame of mind about the situation. Maybe you need that, too.
There’s a lot to hate about the tragedy from the Boston Marathon: the indiscriminate violence; the innocence of those hurt and killed; the system that enabled the perpetrators to hate the very country from which they were materially benefiting.
For me, the tragedy felt close. A pastor at my church, who is an avid runner, described it as “a sense of being personally violated.”
I’ve never run a marathon (though I thought long and hard about including it on the list). I convinced my parents to run their first 5K with me last year in between my two half marathons. These races are among my biggest accomplishments. Crossing the finish line after weeks of training produces a high that’s (almost) addictive. Running has been described as the most democratic and accessible sport. Another writer correctly noted that “It’s the only sport in the world where no one ever boos anybody.”
Boston marathon runners are the best. They are elite athletes. Most of them have trained for months and entered a lottery just for the chance to run. They deserved to finish well. They deserved a celebration.
Their joy was stolen.
While countless runners felt a personal connection to the tragedy, I must admit it also elicited a sense of ennui as simply the latest in a long line of horrible stories. I’m tired of the shootings. I’m tired of the scandals. I’m tired of the abuse. And I’m tired of the bombings.
I know that we live in a fallen, broken world. I’m just tired of the reminders.
Though incredibly cliche, I’ve thought a lot over the past few weeks about Paul’s letter in Hebrews. Following a list of examples who had finished their own races well, Paul encourages his fellow believers to abandon those things that hold them back and focus on running “with endurance the race that is set before us…” (12:1).
If the race is a metaphor for life, why are we warned about “endurance”? Earlier, Paul writes that “you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (10:36).
Running our race with endurance means to do “the will of God.” Shine a light in the darkness. Help the hurting. Care for the orphans and the widows. Be the hands and feet of Jesus–not the easiest assignment when you look at how He lived and who He loved.
The point of the race itself is to be salt and light in a world that defaults to darkness. Boston is but one example of the brokenness in which we run. It’s also why we run: to help the hurting and to love the unloved and the unlovable. This is how we “endure the race that is set before us…”
Our race is the life to which Christ has called us, with all its flaws and hurts and pain. Our goal is to finish well. Our prize is set before us. And endurance is required.