The Marathon

(by Greg)

I do not like running.  If someone has told you that I do, they are either misinformed or a liar.  I feel quite confident that God did not create my body to run.  I believe He created some bodies to run, just not mine.  I more enjoy a nice stroll.  I also appreciate a comfortable chair.  

Nonetheless, in Burundi, I try to run two or three times each week, in a vain attempt to stave off death.  I have yet to find a 24 Hour Fitness in Kibuye.  I run with teammates, teammates whose bodies I suspect were in fact created to run, and I am happy for them.  And I enjoy our time together.  However, I would enjoy it more if we were not running.  

As I have been huffing and puffing my way up and down the hills of Kibuye, I have had a lot of time to think about the difference between a marathon and a sprint.  If you asked me to do one or the other, I would choose the sprint.  I like things to get done fast.  I like a finish line that I can see.  But the work we have entered into in Kibuye is not a sprint, it is a marathon.  While there are projects that take place over weeks or months (eg. a new surgical ward, the installation of an oxygen concentrator), the big changes we are working toward will take place over years, decades and perhaps generations.  We are here working for transformation in healthcare in Burundi and gospel transformation in the lives of our students and our community.  For these, it is much more difficult to see a finish line in sight.  

Working toward this sort of long term vision runs counter to all my natural instincts.  I went into anesthesia, partly because I like to see the beginning and end of a project in the course of a day.  I did not choose internal medicine, in which you might prescribe a blood pressure medicine for a patient with high blood pressure, then see them again in 3 months and maybe slightly adjust the dose, then see them again in another 3 months.  No no, I certainly do not have the patience for that sort of work.  When presented with a patient with hypertension, I want to squirt something in their IV and watch as the blood pressure falls over the course of seconds.  Much longer than that and I am prone to lose interest.  

I realize that in my own power, I cannot run this marathon.  I have to rely on the strength of another, someone who can provide me with the endurance and patience I need to get out of bed everyday and labor toward goals with no end in sight.  Without faith in Someone guiding me, leading me, reminding me of the hope I have in Him, I would likely throw in the towel.  Thankfully, I do not do this work alone, but instead am surrounded by a team who can remind me why we are doing this and who we are doing it for.  And I get to run each day with Someone who has the strength and the endurance and the vision to accomplish these goals, Someone who has the stamina and the steadfastness to get to the finish line.   For now, I just need to keep my eyes on Him.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2

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