July 27, 2004

Running the Race

I've been thinking a lot about Steven's candid I want to be a saint post (an antipodal to Garbo's "I vant to be alone"?)

St. Paul likens the Christian journey to a running race and that we must train. And training = pain. (I ran cross-country in HS, and it wasn't a bed of roses.) Studies have shown that long-distance runners deal with pain in two ways: associative and dissociative.

Elite marathoners use associative techniques, which means during a race they constantly monitor themselves and their environment. They monitor their form, stride-length, where their opponents are, whether that twitch in calf is something to be concerned about, etc... They are aware.

Mediocre marathoners use dissociative techniques, which means they try to get their mind off the pain by listening to Beethoven or the theme from Rocky on their headsets. They might think about what they're going to do next week, the vacation next month, a particularly memorable moment in their past, etc...

I was trying to apply this to the spiritual life, with mixed results. Most of us use dissociative techniques, by using distraction to avoid the message God might be sending. I'm not sure associative techniques are that helpful either, because they place the focus on self and on one's performance, rather than on the Other.

So the third way might be the coined term Deociative, which means focusing on God and seeking first his kingdom. Everything one needs to know about the Christian life is contained in the single Gospel scene of Peter attempting to walk on the water but only being able to do so as long as he was focused on Christ.

But Steven asks a good question in wondering why we want to become a saint. Fortunately - Thank God! - He works with impure motives. Steven writes, "He will use, I think, almost any motive and turn it to good." I fear I'm motivated mostly by pain avoidance, but that since the option is to become a saint or be damned, I'd just soon get it over with (i.e. become a saint). It can happen now or later but either way it's gonna hurt. So why procastinate?

Another reason to want to be a saint is that it is where the action is. Just as it is more fun to play sports than to watch them, it's more fun to be in the game. Sometimes we're on the sidelines because we reject God's initiative, preferring the pine time. But Mother Teresa played every snap. Have I exhausted the hard corn sports metaphors yet?

Ultimately, Jeff Miller applies hammer to nailhead with this response:
I see my goal as loving God for God alone. Not for any grace that I might receive, not for the myriad blessing involved in following Christ (and the plentiful crosses). Not for the fear of hell. While I will never receive the purity of this goal in this life if I can slowly crawl forward I will be happy. Maybe the hardest part of this moving forward is trusting in God to bring me forward.

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