Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The weather forecast was for the low to mid 30's, which always sounds great. That morning, I learned the weatherman can be right once in a while. It was a cold morning, but the thing that worried me more was that I had not trained as hard for this as I had my first half. I hadn't done the long runs or done the hill training I had done before, and so I was very concerned that I would not be able to make the full 13.1 miles. My plan was to aim for an 8:30/mile pace, somewhat slower than my training runs but I wanted to err on the side of caution.
After some good luck hugs and kisses from Carrie, the waves starting rolling out as me and 11,000 of my new friends took off for the course. It was a pretty course, going by many of the historic landmarks of Memphis, down to the riverfront where Old Muddy was hard at work living up to the name. Then came the funny part, somewhere around mile 3 the course runs back through Beale Street and this is where the crowd is roaring. Out of nowhere on 3rd Street in front of the Peabody Place a manhole cover jumped in front of me and tripped me up, and I ate pavement in front of a few hundred people. I freaked out at first, well actually I sprang up like nothing had happened, then freaked out that I had twisted an ankle and then noticed a pain in my wrist, elbow, and my hand was bloody. Not going to lie, first thought was "I don't care if the wrist is broken, I'll dry the blood, deal with the elbow later. I signed up for this and paid for it and I'm going to finish this! Ow, Ow, Ow...."
My strategy was to coast for the first 7-8 miles and then depending on how I felt I would start to turn it on and finish strong. I clocked in at around 8:36 for the first 6 miles, and then around mile 8 I was feeling so good and barely felt like I'd expended much energy that I turned it on and began to push myself harder than I had done in a training run. Around mile 11 I talked to a guy who was starting at Southern in the fall, and that was awesome. Right before the finish at the stadium I saw Carrie and sorta posed for a picture! I knew she would be there and looked feverishly for her. Seeing her gave me the strength to push that last quarter mile in an almost sprint to the line.
When I crossed the line I looked up and saw the time, but I had no idea what my official time was (wave starts mean big delays). It turned out that I had turned in a PR, 1:49:09, a pace of about 8:20 per mile. I was so excited to have been able to complete the course, get a warm blanket, change into dry (and not smelly) clothes, get some hot food, and a big kiss from my wife!
To God be the glory though, anything I do is for Him and only because of Him. It is a gift I do not plan to waste.
On to Nashville, first full marathon. Bring on 26.2!
Have no fear! We shall pick back up again!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Still though, my mind is left wondering exactly what my purpose is. It has weighed so heavily on me that throughout seminary I began to wonder if I had really been called to ministry if I had such an unclear understanding of a "calling." It was hard for me to conceive being called to one particular area. Currently I serve as a youth minister, but I do not feel a driving call to youth ministry. I am on the roster as an adjunct instructor at a Christian college, but I do not feel a driving urge and desire to teach at the university. It was hard for me as a seminary student to wrap my mind and heart around what my "calling" was, and to make any sense of it.
My greatest joy is still found in what initially got me thinking about a call to ministry, the preparation and execution of teaching/preaching the Word. There is very little about ministry that excites me as much as the opportunities to preach and teach. I have never been big on meetings, nor is administration one of my strong points (though I have learned to do both and appreciate them for what they are), and in spite of my great compassion for people and love to see reconciliation I have very little patience for stupidity. But when opening the Word and diving into its meaning, application, context, significance, and power, it sounds corny but there is an elation that surges through my being that shouts out "you want your objective, here it is!"
With this glimpse into the calling God has placed on my life, I have began to understand a little more of what it is He expects from me. The study and teaching of the Scripture, being my foremost love in ministry, has also become the cornerstone of my ministry. Relationships are great and God has used many over the years for impacting the Kingdom, but I will not be judged for that. Nor will I be judged for programming or for having the cool youth events. No dear friend, I will be judged on how I have taught and presented the Scripture. What will stand for eternity is not programming or Disciple Now, but the Word of God. And so, it is with that cornerstone understanding I have been able to understand a little more of what it is that the Lord expects of me.
This brings us to the title of this post, what is it I contend for. I must say that there are many pressing needs that I desire strongly to fight against, that my heart and energy can, has, and will be poured into. I will contend for the rights of the unborn, I will contend for righteousness in living, I will contend for the personhood of all people regardless of circumstance, I will contend for the next generation that God is rising to be about His Kingdom coming. More than anything though, I will contend for the faith, I will contend for the Truth. My heart longs for the reclaiming of Truth as essential and objective, and for the Church to carry on the faith in the Jude 3 model. My assignment is to proclaim Truth to students, to engage them in the metanarrative of Scipture, and through this challenge them to live their faith daily contending also for the Truth in a culture that is increasingly anti-Christian. I want them to be dangerous arrows in the arsenal of God, and I want the legions of hell to shake in their boots when they hear of this generation of students. I want the Word of God to so permeate their lives that they sweat the very words of Christ, and for them to be aggressively dependent on the Spirit for everything in their lives. Big goals I know, and very lofty objectives, but I don't care. I have a big God who can meet those, and I pray by His grace He does. Ultimately though, it's not about me. I want them to forget me, I want to never be remembered by anyone, to have a simple grave and simple funeral, because my desire is that I become less and He become more. I close with the Southern Seminary hymn, Soldiers of Christ in Truth Arrayed. It is the Truth I contend for, not acceptance or esteem. I pray I be hated for the Truth of the Gospel than loved for tickling ears.
Soldiers of Christ, in truth arrayed,
A world in ruins needs your aid:
A world by sin destroyed and dead;
A world for which the Savior bled.
His Gospel to the lost proclaim,
Good news for all in Jesus’ Name;
Let light upon the darkness break
That sinners from their death may wake.
Morning and evening sow the seed,
God’s grace the effort shall succeed.
Seedtimes of tears have oft been found
With sheaves of joy and plenty crowned.
We meet to part, but part to meet
When earthly labors are complete,
To join in yet more blest employ,
In an eternal world of joy.