The weekend trip to South Dakota ranch country with my daughter was so rich with meaning, I forgot to reflect upon my first race in almost 9 years. On the morning of March 14, I felt relatively well-prepared and surrounded by a sense of ease. I do not feel when I am getting ready to preach a sermon. Even though I know in my heart that the sermon isn't about me, but about God, I still wonder, "why would anyone bother to hear what I have to say?" Even if I prepared well, "preparation" really isn't possible. I can't ever know all of what can be known, but I should still seek until that next Sunday comes. Sometimes sermon preparation feels like bailing out a boat on a lake with a hole. I can see the shore. The scenery is beautiful--awe-inspiring even. I can swim to the shore if I have to. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I keep bailing and bailing. Other times I feel the doom of sinking.
Preparing for this run was liberating. Aside from the little speed work I executed (which I felt was too risky during this icy season), I ran appropriate mileage, rested strategically (thanks Jeff Galloway), lost a little weight, and built my endurance. I ran farther and longer than I thought I could. A marathon seems almost realistic. I set goals and came close to meeting them. I overcame adversity--my children's haphazard schedules and the powerful work ethic of my wife that sometimes kept me at home. I overcame holiday binging and drifts toward laziness in the cold, dark winter. I saved for and acquired the equipment I needed to run in these conditions. With the gifts God gave me and the grace of my family, I trained to run a five-mile race. About what did I need to worry? I wish I could prepare for sermons like that. What is the better question? What would sermon preparation look like that would lead me to peace instead of angst? I know that I'm supposed to trust God. I know that God doesn't love me any more if I preach a good sermon. I know all that. But the angst remains. This is not torment--it's just not peace.
So be it. Maybe I can learn more about my vocation with running. Running since October has produced my best thinking and prayer time in years. Though my finishing time was 47:08--slow and sometimes plodding--I was steady and focused, calm and thoughtful, prayerful and pensive. I even cracked a few smiles. I had the best cheering section in the race--my dear wife and two girls--meeting me at 3 different times during the race, calling my name and offering me encouragement. Though a brisk south wind slapped me on the chest on the home stretch, I was buoyed by the all the good that created that moment of meeting a goal and being greeted by my family.
That was about the best day any guy could have.