Sunday, May 5, 2013


Fr. Dale Matson

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” (James 1:2) “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12)

Steadfastness is one of God’s basic requirements in the Christians life. Other words that help us understand steadfastness are commitment, dedication, persistence, determination, faithfulness and tenacity. Often St. Paul talked about the Christian life not as a pilgrimage but a race. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NIV)

This perseverance as St. Paul calls it or steadfastness as James calls it, is required to finish the race. Often in my dreams, I am running a race and become lost along the way. I get off the course. I am so disappointed with myself in the dream because I had such a good beginning to the race. I believe that God is cautioning me to stay the course and pay attention to the signs along the way. Paul says that we must preservere on the race marked out for us. We must stay in the race and stay on the correct course.

At age 42 and at 235 pounds, I began walking a mile a day and then two miles with a goal to run a mile. One thing led to another and eventually I completed a marathon. This kind of training requires discipline, patience and focus. The byproducts are weight loss and a sense that most goals can be reached if one is willing to persevere. Many will attest that completing a marathon is a life changing event that transfers to other aspects of one’s life.

For those like me who believe that everything worth doing is worth overdoing, I discovered that there is also what is called “Ultramarathons”. These are distances of 50 Kilometers, 50 miles, 100 Kilometers, 100 miles and beyond. Perhaps the dream of most marathoners is to run the Boston Marathon but for folks who run Ultramarathons, The Western States 100 mile endurance run is what is referred to as the Holy Grail of endurance runs. The single track trail begins in North Lake Tahoe and finishes 100 miles away in Auburn CA. Like Boston, one must successfully complete another qualifying event first but there is also a selection lottery too. Not everyone who qualifies is selected.

The training requires absolute dedication with months of trail running in the mountains and 100 mile training weeks. I also biked and cross country skied to build endurance and avoid injuries associated with too many running miles per week. The cutoff for completing the event is 30 hours. In 2001, I finished in 29 hours and 17 minutes on my third try following two previous failures in 1994 and 1995. Needless to say, it was the hardest thing I have ever done.

It is said that the first 50 miles is run with the legs and the second 50 miles is run with the heart. Staying on course at night requires constant vigilance. If one does not pay attention to the signs one could become hopelessly lost and not finish the race. There are glow sticks placed along the trail periodically to keep you on course as you run through the night. At every aid station along the way, you are offered encouragement, food and water. There is no way to describe the tired lungs, aching body and the mind altering perceptions because of glycogen depletion. It is a race where even muscle tissue is consumed as the body cannibalizes itself for fuel. All of my toenails turned black from the constant jamming of my feet on the 22, 000’ of descent and 18,000 feet of ascent. Painful blisters plagued my feet and my hands took on the form of boxing gloves from edema.

The 100 plus degree heat in the canyons required a pint of water every two miles just to keep my body weight near normal. Of the 400 or so runners who began, only about 60% finished the year in 2001. What was the difference between those who finished and those who did not? Steadfastness was the main ingredient missing in most of those who did not finish.
My life goal continues with God’s help, to run the good race. I have known too many good runners and good Christians who have quit the race. Someday I hope to say to our Lord, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. “ (2nd Timothy 4:7).

*The verses from James are from the BCP lectionary reading for Morning Prayer Monday May 6th Year I


The Underground Pewster said...

On day 217 of the Bible Challenge, this time I hope to finish the KJV, and already thinking of the next challenge. Thanks for the pep talk! Now, where did I lay those jogging shoes?

Scott Perkins said...

The running analogy makes steadfastness easy to understand. Adopting the proper identity makes it attainable. Thanks for the post. I like your site, glad I found it.