The questions fly through my mind as I race,
feet that pound and heart that pounds –
Why do I see the face of God more in the runners,
panting and swaying and
feet pounding –
than in the people in the pews?
As I reach the first summit and I hear the bells and
the obnoxious clapping plastic hands
the thoughts come again.
run run run don’t stop these people won’t let you stop
With their bells and hands, they want me to keep going.
And they can’t do it for me.
But they can tell me to do it for myself.
The first mile approaches and there is a woman
on her front lawn,
water hose in hand,
arching the spray across the road
Some glorious rainbow of promise that the miles to come will be worthwhile.
And like the sailor and his animals I feel some burst of
I’ve found another
vow to trust as the spray kisses my already-damp
The first mile is over after the Boy Scouts
thrust cool water toward my lips,
like they knew my parched soul would come running by at any moment.
if this was how we greeted them at the gates of our temples
maybe i would find more reasons to stay and keep drinking
Theology and physiology bumping up against one another in my brain
as the first two miles end and
I let myself slow.
When I walk I do it guiltily,
like I’m betraying the treadmill that trained me up.
So I only walk until my body starts to appreciate it.
Through the patchy-sun subdivision is when I start to beg the road to wane
because surely I was supposed to be finished by now.
The people with the highlighter-orange shirts
and the clapping plastic
and the bicycle bells –
they are at every turn, pointing us in the way to go
and telling us there isn’t much more
Even when there is much more, their stretched truth is a catalyst,
reigniting the match I lit that morning at 5:30.
maybe if we wore highlighter-orange when we walked around in the world
it would be easier to see who we are –
they’ll know we are christians by our highlighter-orange,
our highlighter-orange –
like a never-ending vacation bible school staff
Then, like it always does,
the end comes out of nowhere.
And of course it’s a hill the whole way there,
because it wouldn’t be a symbolically satisfying poem without one.
The hill is where Paul starts shouting in my brain –
Paul, whose words are so often shouted at me as reasons
why I am less,
why I can’t be in charge,
why I must hush –
now intoning the truth I rarely let myself hear from him that I must run this race with endurance.
Because that’s what we all do, in the end –
we sprint uphill and we keep going back even when we are almost fully
Because for every which way we pull the holy words,
there is still God saying
run the race run the race run the race
and try to let people be there for you while you do it
And so crossing the finish line is a swell of tears and
shouts of love from people unknown who cheered the whole way there.
And my questions
why is this race more like church
than any church i’ve been to in five years
stagger their way into my mind and heart.
And I write
and I wonder
and I sign up for another race to taste more of that same