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The great joy of running

From The Christian Science Journal - February 27, 2013

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If you’ve ever run a marathon, you know it’s quite a distance to cover on foot—a little over 26 miles. But imagine being an endurance runner, or “ultra runner” as they are sometimes known, who races 100 miles or more! Some of the most inspiring marathon runners and ultra runners have developed a unique perspective on running which has been key to their endurance and success. Rather than thinking about how far in a race they have left to go, or about the positions of other runners either ahead or behind them, they simply focus on their great joy of running. They have engendered in themselves a deep love of the uncomplicated act of taking strides.

That may sound pretty straightforward, perhaps even simplistic, yet it’s easier said than done. An ultra runner may be running for six or seven hours straight and still feel great. The thoughts are clear, and the focus is on the pleasure that every step brings. Then, say, around mile 60, maybe he or she gets distracted and begins thinking about some other racer’s speed. At this point, often the fun is gone and fatigue begins to dominate. The moment an ultra runner changes his or her focus from a love of running to a desire simply to cross the finish line, exhaustion can set in. If the goal isn’t the act of running but the end of running, then no matter how long or short the distance they’ve run, they’re sure to be worn out.

There are probably a number of lessons that can be learned from all this—lessons that no doubt apply not just to running but also to daily life. One particular aspect worth considering is related to how people might perceive themselves as spiritual creations. Rather than thinking about how far there is left to go toward somehow becoming spiritual, instead one’s focus can simply be on the great joy of already being entirely spiritual. Like the ultra runner, you can engender in yourself a deep love of the uncomplicated fact of spiritual and immortal being.  

Before exploring this further, though, let’s take a moment to think a bit about the nature of spiritual creation itself.

A conscious, spiritual creation certainly doesn’t appear out of nowhere and out from nothing. Some substance, action, or cause brings it into existence. In Christian Science, God is defined as being the source of this substance or cause. Entirely nonphysical, God is conscious, active power. God is the dynamic force that is everywhere present. The effect of this divine cause is you and I—the spiritual ideas of God. God doesn’t express in us physicality; instead, God expresses in us order, ability, beauty—all positive, spiritual qualities.  

Like the ultra runner, you can engender in yourself a deep love of the uncomplicated fact of spiritual and immortal being.

While it’s been theorized that we may start out as spiritual but then become material for a while, and, ultimately, die into spirituality again, Christian Science brings a significantly higher viewpoint. Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, explains, “Christian Science is absolute; it is neither behind the point of perfection nor advancing towards it; it is at this point and must be practised therefrom” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 242).

It makes sense that we don’t get to this “point of perfection” by trying to break through the tape at some far-off finish line. Nor is perfection some blessed state belonging only to the distant past. It exists now! The perfection of God is expressed in you presently. There is nothing to wait for or run toward. Perfection is happening right now as you read this.

Those elite ultra runners enjoy such success because they embrace the clarity of each moment, delighting in the beauty of what they’re doing. Taking a hint from them, each of us can do the same, and with clarity and delight embrace who we are as God’s spiritual creation. There is no finish line. There is nothing wearisome to endure. There is only perfect God and man, here and now. Instead of gritting your teeth and making a mighty effort to race toward somehow becoming God’s creation, you can savor and rejoice in the fact that you already are!

A temptation to speculate about how far there is to go toward being the spiritually perfect expression of God can only bring exhaustion and discouragement. We don’t want or need to be wondering, “Sure, God’s perfection must be true for others, but when will it be true for me?” Accepting such a line of thought is closing one’s eyes to our real and present God-given identity. To focus only on what you wish you were is to ignore the wonderful creation of God that you already are!

Christ Jesus said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Be. It’s not about “getting there.” It’s just about being the expression of God’s perfect nature, which brings true fulfillment to life. It’s natural to be deeply grateful that all the intelligence, understanding, and wisdom of God, divine Mind, is presently and perpetually expressed in you. Inner peace, gratitude, and joy always come with progress in Christian Science.

Be clear that you’ve already “made it” on your journey, because God is already right here, and you are proof of God’s presence. Like the elite ultra runner, you need not fight so hard. Why run through your day with even a hint of doubt, pressure, skepticism, or lack when, like Paul in the Bible, you can “finish [your] course with joy” (Acts 20:24)? 

 The finish line isn’t miles away; it’s within you. Stride by stride—thought by thought—enjoy how divine Mind is exquisitely expressing itself, and its magnificent outcome is you. Yes, you actually are presently at the beautiful point of perfection”! Why not give yourself a great gift? Love this fact so deeply that it becomes part of your constant everyday outlook.

Mark Swinney is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. He teaches his classes in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He’s also a member of the Christian Science Board of Lectureship. 

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