During J-term in my first year of seminary I took a class on the missional church and one of the assignments for the class was to create a metaphor for the missional church. The missional church is about being the church and it is very difficult, so naturally i compared it to something i know is difficult and that is a marathon.
The marathon is one of the most excruciating sporting feats to be attempted by humans. It is 26.2 miles of trial and tribulation and it is meant to test a person both physically and mentally. Those who make it through become better runners and learn more about themselves than they ever thought. The training leading up to running a marathon tests your body to exhaustion and without the training the marathon is merely impossible. A man was once training for a marathon he began slowly with a couple miles a day and running them at a pretty mundane pace as to warm up his muscles for all that was to come. He realized baby-steps were needed before he jumped in to doing heavy, long, and fast pace runs. As the man slowly made his workouts longer he began to push his pace slightly taking off a few seconds every mile. ALl to help test his body for endurance. The man participated in many types of workouts that began to push his body past exhaustion. As the workouts became more taxing the man contemplated whether it was too much whether he had taken on more than he could handle. It seemed that the goal was losing it luster and that his dream would never be achieved. However, the man kept to his task knowing that his work would pay off in the end. The months passed and the man kept pushing going further and further past his comfort zone. The man has worked many months and the time has finally arrived and it is marathon day. All the miles he has run until now mean absolutely nothing unless he completes the 26.2 miles ahead of him. The man starts the race off slow and steady much like he did his training, this a way to get his body moving before he picks up the pace. As the race moves along he speeds up keeping track of how he is doing and adjusting adequately as to not expend all of his energy at once. The marathon proves to be tiring and the man begins to feel weary, but as he learned in his training he must run through the pain and ignore it. As the man reaches the halfway point his body tells him it is too much and needs him to stop. However the man presses on keeping the final goal in mind and not giving-up on it. Mile 20 and the man feels his body really begin to fight back, his mind is telling him to stop, and his legs do not want to go another step. He has hit “the Wall” that all marathoners fear. The point of the race where your body cannot go any further and all you want to do is stop. It is how runners deal with this situation that writes the stories of their marathon race. While he continues at a staggered pace his mind begins to wrestle through all the voices, weeding them out and finding the small one that is encouraging him to keep running. The man begins to take each mile as an accomplishment and knows that each one knocked off is a goal. The man reaches mile 26 with this one mile mentality and wrestling with all of those thoughts. The man can see the finish line and realizes that this part of the race is very difficult. Being able to see the finish line, but because of all the pain he has endured it does not seem to get closer. Finally the man crosses the finish line and throws his arms in the air in triumphal victory. All those miles every week. Those tempo runs and interval works all pushing his body to teach him what it means to run a marathon all to make the real test one of the mind. The man knew that his body could finish the marathon, but as he ran through he never thought his mind would let him. Overcoming it and prevailing he reached his ultimate goal of finishing the marathon.