Category Archives: Spiritual Growth/ Discipleship

New Shoes

*From the Archive: I wrote this a couple of years ago but at the time didn’t have way to share it other than through Facebook “notes” 

For the majority of my adult life I have gotten by with just two pairs of shoes. A pair of “sneakers” for fun/play and a pair of brown leather hiking boots for everything else. It has only been within the past few years that I have started to expand my footwear collection. Shoes just weren’t that important to me.

Until I started running.

When I first took up running I was wearing a pair of off the shelf Nikes which were chosen solely on the way they looked. Style always trumped other qualities, like say…comfort. After a few minutes my knees were hurting, my ankles were aching, and my arches were on the verge of an outright rebellion. At the time my goal was to run a mile without stopping or dying. But the pain threatened to kill even that modest dream.

At about the same time I was becoming aware that all shoes were not created equal (nor were they all created by Nike). Sensing that my shoes may have been my problem I decided to pay a visit to a local running store to be measured, evaluated and fitted into a shoe that was engineered for my particular foot type and stride. Within minutes my stride had been observed, my arch had been studied, and my foot and been measured in great detail.

The shoe specialist disappeared with his calculation in hand, and a few minutes later he emerged from the back room with a stack of shoe boxes six high. Turns out I need what is called a stability shoe, because apparently I am unstable (insert joke here). The first few shoes didn’t do much for me, but then he pulled out the Asics Kayano.

My foot didn’t slip into the shoe as much as the shoe seemed to reach up and wrap itself perfectly around my foot. It was like he had pulled down two fluffy white clouds, soft and weightless, and wrapped them around my feet. I felt like I was hovering just a couple of millimeters off the floor.

That was five years, two marathons, and dozens of Asics ago, but I still get that same intoxicating feeling whenever I lace up a new pair of shoes. I feel like I could run for hours without stopping, but within 7 minutes of the inaugural run disappointment sets in when I realize, once again, that no matter how expensive they are or how advanced they have become I still have to run. It’s still up to me to drive my foot into the ground and propel myself forward. The shoe can’t do it for me.This same phenomenon follows me into my faith. Over the years I have purchased Christian books, studied theological resources, and opened blank journals hoping each time that this will be the one thing that will jumps start the consistent inconsistency of my spiritual life. But I am soon met withthe same realization that a book, resource, or journal, no matter how good, doesn’t have the ability to compel me to exercise a little spiritual discipline in my life. They can teach me, they can motivate me, and they can inspire me, but they cannot make me. It still up to me to open my bible and bend my knee.Every morning my cell phone announces the beginning of another day by rattling across the nightstand. In that moment I face a decision. I can either rollout of bed or to roll back under the covers. By nature I tend to drift toward the path of least resistance until the Holy Spirit whispers for the millionth time, “…I beat my body and make it my slave.” There are days I pull the covers up and tell Paul to mind his own business, but most days I listen to him and force myself to get up and run, both physically and spiritually.At the end of the “run” I have once again learned lesson that the benefit always outweighs the effort. It is a recurring lesson because it seems that as soon as I learn it…I immediately begin to unlearn it. And by the time the cell phone begins its regular morning dance across the nightstand I have lost it completely. But thankfully the Spirit patiently whispers again, “…I beat my body and make it my slave.

Game 6 and Phil. 3:13-14

After 19 games the Texas Rangers (as of today) are 15-4! Just in case you haven’t noticed that is the best record in all of the Major Leagues.   Honestly, after what happened in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series*, I’m more than a little surprised.

Losing Game 6 and then the World Series was so utterly heartbreaking that I was expecting the team to need a year to put it behind them and move on. Even now, if I stumble across replayed highlights of the game I have to change the channel.  The memory is still to painful, and I assumed the Rangers would suffer from some sort of Game 6 hangover. Apparently I was wrong.

Clearly they have forgotten Game 6 and moved on from that devastatingly painful night.

That’s why these Rangers are an amazing illustration of Philippians 3:13-14

13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Many of us know these verses and can even quote them, but for so many Philippians 3:13-14 is all about “straining toward” and “pressing on” which really becomes code for trying harder and working more.   In the end, we are so busy straining and pressing we almost completely ignore the idea of forgetting.  But we shouldn’t because that is how Paul begins the whole thought, “Forgetting what is behind…”

Somewhere in our past we all have a Game 6, a devastating mistake, a heartbreaking failure that fills us with the cold ache of regret.  Our problem isn’t that we have a past,  it’s that we don’t forget it.   We end up shackled to the guilt, and tangled in the shame of our old lives.  Too often the shadow of our past hangs over us so that our “straining toward” and “pressing on” is really just an effort to make up for when we fell short.

Paul had his own history of Game 6 meltdowns, but he knows that in Christ we aren’t defined by our past.  When he penned “Forgetting what is behind…” he was reminding us that there is nothing we can add to what he has already done, nothing we can give that would equal his sacrifice. Through the cross God dealt with our sin with such ferocious finality that the only thing left for us to do is turn our back and leave it behind as we strain toward what is ahead and press on toward the goal.

But it starts when we forget what is behind.

*In case you don’t remember in Games 6 the Rangers were one strike away from winning the World Series, not once but TWICE in the same game only to lose the game and ultimately the series.