Sunday, April 21, 2013

Marathon Time and Bible Verses

Time has put enough distance between the events on Monday and me for me to really start processing what happened on Monday. This is more than a gut reaction.  This is more than first feelings.  This is now trying to sort things out.

Many runners I know have recently posted Psalm 26:2.  Obviously a reference to the marathon distance.  The verse (from the New American Bible Revised Edition) is:

   Examine me, Lord, and test me;
   search my heart and mind

Usually following this will be a phrase about how the marathon runner at the end of the race is not the same as the marathon runner at the start of the race.  I knew that was true all along.  At least one friend had commented before my first marathon about how she learned something each time she participated in a marathon.  I would have to say that this is more true for me this time than any other time.  There were things I learned about running a race that I will address later and things I  learned about my reaction to bad events (which I will also comment on later).  Although I suppose in the same way that as part of a three day retreat long ago that talked about how to live in the proverbial "fourth day" the reactions I have had are mostly about how to deal with the proverbial 27th mile.

But this Bible verse was not of my finding and was about the distance a marathon always is rather than about my number (which I wrote about back on 13-March using some verses that had to do with parables--how fitting since I use story telling to sort things out and one of the verses I found for my time is a short parable) or my time 3:15:56.  My time was very close to 3:16:00 which a friend had told me long ago would lead to the obvious John 3:16.  But since I came in 4 seconds under 3:16 and I value those 4 seconds, I tried to find something using my exact time to help me make sense of the events around me.

For that, I chose two things.  Verses of joy.  And verses of sorrow.  Together they will help me to initiate a healing process in my own mind, heart, and soul.  A process by which I will find the strength to face all things--running or otherwise--that challenge me and not run from or hide from the challenges and risks that I face in life.

First verses: Gospel #3 (given the typical order of Matthew, Mark, LUKE, and John), Chapter 15, verses 5 and 6.  

   And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with 
     great joy
   and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and 
     neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I
     have found my lost sheep.’

Anyone familiar with this verse knows that the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of choosing to spend time with sinners and tax collectors and that the "found after being lost" sheep was symbolic for a repentent sinner.  However, the verse can be taken out of context a little as we recognize the simple joy of finding something or someone that was lost or that was feared lost.  I cannot express the enormity of the gratitude I felt on Monday as people checked in on me or commented after I had checked in on FB (or by a text with my wife). I was the sheep that was thought to be lost or at least people were worried I might have been lost.  There was a joy for others in knowing of my safety.  And there was a joy for me in being able to share my safety.  Not that a sheep is sentient enough to have feelings and state in any way that it is happy to have found its shepherd, but certainly in the context of Jesus's short parable the repentent sinner takes great joy in finding comfort.  I took great joy in having already retrieved my stuff so that I could be in communication with those who were so worried about me.  And I feel the safety and camaraderie of the "flock" of runners I was with that day and the fact that runners share a bond that makes all feel like a community around the city, around the country, and around the world taking strength from being a group.

The verses of sorry: Psalm 31 Verses 5-11 (11 being 5+6):
Free me from the net they have set for me,
for you are my refuge
Into your hands I commend my spirit;
you will redeem me, LORD, God of truth.
You hate those who serve worthless idols,
but I trust in the LORD.
I will rejoice and be glad in your mercy,
once you have seen my misery,
[and] gotten to know the distress of my soul.
You will not abandon me into enemy hands,
but will set my feet in a free and open space.
Be gracious to me, LORD, for I am in distress;
affliction is wearing down my eyes,
my throat and my insides.
My life is worn out by sorrow,
and my years by sighing.
My strength fails in my affliction;
my bones are wearing down.
No one was setting a net specifically for me.  We still don't know whether the two accused of being the bombers (one being dead and the other being in a hospital as I write this) targeted any ONE specifically.  What we do know is that they set a trap for someone or some cause.  And throughout, my religion has been part of my refuge.  Even on Monday, I commended my spirit and sense of self to God.  I am not accusing Islam in general of serving worthless idols (although I know some do).  But anyone of any faith who indiscriminately kills and injures young and old and those who thought there were in a safe and joyful family environment is serving some idol that is not worth anything in my book.  It could be an ideology.  It could be a cause.  It could simply be for fame.  It is not the God I serve.  I have felt miserable this week many times.  I am glad to be alive.  This event was too close for comfort.  I will discuss later the many different ways in which I interpret close that could eiher have made me close or not to the events on Monday.  I feel the verse about not abandoning me into enemy hands but setting my feet into an open space sort of representing the fact that I was on the subway and released to the open area of Boston's city hall at the next subway stop.  It may have even more meaning if at least one of the two accused men was at the same subway station at the same time.  I cannot say the latter for sure, but there was a young man who made a comment that seemed awfully out of place at the time and who looked at least vaguely like pictures of the suspect in the hospital this morning.  Will return to that later as well.  When I first came upon the verses here earlier this week, I would not have claimed years of sighing and affliction, but I was definitely feeling in distress.  My eyes were being worn down from watching all the bad news.

But now that I can juxtapose the sorrowful verses and joyful verses that I relate to my time on Monday and I continue to think about what it all means, I think my psyche is on the road to recovery.  The memories of Monday will remain with me for a lifetime.  For example, where was I when the Boston marathon 2013 bombing occurred?  On the green line of the T headed toward Haymarket where we had intended to transfer to the orange line. But despite the memories being there and strong for the rest of my life, I will move onward.  Not leaving that day behind.  But making that day part of a life long learning process that makes me stronger.  

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