Thursday, March 2, 2023

God Takes No Pleasure in the Runner's Stride

Since I began running in 1976 at age 11, I've logged enough running miles to circle the globe twice -- a little more than 50,000 miles. Throughout all of those miles, I’ve been a Christian. I've been sponsored by corporations, completed multiple solo running adventures across states and countries, and my strides have taken me to the White House in Washington D.C.; the top of the Appalachian and Rocky Mountain ranges; to such national parks as Denali, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone; from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic shore; across the Great Plains; and across parts of Europe. I've had the honor of meeting people in various political offices, being hosted in homes of countless caring families, and have enjoyed the virtual running company of school children around the globe who tracked my progress via online classrooms I created for each of my running endeavors. Years of pounding the pavement made my legs very strong and I've been able to conquer every snowy mountaintop, sandy desert, desolate highway, and lonely valley I've encountered.

Yet, after decades of sculpting my body to perform at such a high degree I now realize that although God is likely pleased that I've used my athletic abilities for good purposes (promoting youth health and fitness and putting a focus on some charitable causes), God has taken no pleasure in this runner's stride. I must admit that there have been moments when I've taken pride in my self-sufficiency as I dominated over large landscapes with my runner's stride. Yet, such self-sufficiency is NOT what pleases God, but rather our ability to acknowledge dependence on Him. As it is written in Psalm 147:10-11...

In four weeks I'll be blowing out the candles on my 58th birthday cake, and I am incredibly grateful to God for the ministry He has given to me as Director of Faith Formation at a Catholic church; as a husband to my lovely wife Kelley; as a father to four amazing adult children, and step-father to three other wonderful adult children and a high school Freshman; grandfather to several grandkids; and, being the youngest of 7 siblings with my parents healthy and well in Alaska at nearly 90 years of age. I've run many different courses in life and God has truly taught me many lessons along the way... even when I've had to backtrack now and then and traverse some rough terrain to finally learn a lesson.

Let's take a closer look at Psalm 147:10-11. What delights the Lord? The verses tell us that He does not delight in the strength of the horse and He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy. We take great interest in the power of God’s creation, whether it is the strength of a horse or the strength in the legs of a man. God created these things, but they are not what fundamentally delights Him. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him -- the reverence and trust of His people. Those who find their hope in His mercy delights God, because they honor Him with their trust. It pleases God when we hope in His loyal love, His loving kindness.

Yes, when it comes to me... God is not impressed with my legs or endurance.

Please understand, taking pleasure in the beauty of the symmetry of a well-formed human leg is not the point here. Most of us are impressed with the weight-lifter whose massive legs and shoulders allow him to dead-lift 1,000 pounds or more, or an Olympic sprinter who can run the 100-meter dash in less than 10 seconds. God is happy to see us use the gifts He gives us. However, God is not impressed by the extremes of human achievement.

The Apostle Paul tells us, "Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:10). With the years I have left in this life, I definitely want to please God. Over many decades of running, it really all comes back to Psalm 147:11 where the Psalmist mentions the two qualities of character as pleasing to God: (1) fearing God; (2) putting hope in His mercy (steadfast love). "Fearing" God sounds pretty negative, but we need to understand it. "Fear" here doesn't mean "terror." Rather it means something like "be in awe of." A God-fearer is one who cares more about offending God than offending people. Some are swayed by the values of their peer group or their culture. However, the one who fears God is swayed by what he or she knows about God -- what pleases Him and what angers Him.

As I continue down life's road, I'll do so humbly and with reverence to God while keeping Romans 12:3 in mind: "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment." Essentially, the Apostle Paul is telling us not to think we're better than we really are, but to be honest in our evaluation of ourselves. That's a good lesson to learn before too many mileposts are in the rearview mirror!

From Him, Through Him, For Him (Romans 11:36),
Paul J. Staso


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