Roadwork for life

Maybe you remember the opening scenes of the genius movie Office Space, in which the IT toiler Peter is stuck in traffic trying to get to work, and is outpaced by an old man tottering by with his walker.

Slow that guy down, and you’ll have an idea of my running pace. It’s not impressive.

Still, I was reassured by the results of a study I saw the other day. It said that even a little bit of running, and not even every day, yields great benefits for overall health and especially for longevity. So my two-mile loop around the neighborhood, three days a week, is pretty much enough.

Which was a relief to hear, because I’m not about to run more than that.

As I slogged those miles in the chilly wet this morning, I was thinking about the cost-benefit calculation of exercise. Because it hurts, it’s inconvenient, it bores people when you brag about it. But the benefits are undeniable, and they come in two forms: the present and the future.

Once the pained breathing subsides, you get that endorphin afterglow and a day’s worth of satisfaction: Phew, that’s over for a while. That’s the present benefit.

The future benefit is harder to see because, well, you can’t see the future. And certainly there are no guarantees. But the way I figure it, every dogged mile is an investment in future me – in what that old guy will be able to do with his body and how he’ll feel while doing it. The payoff is unforeseeable, but it can only be good.

And as I turned the corner for my second mile, it occurred to me that the life of faith is kind of like that. You want to live a good life. Practicing your faith, you get grounded in the idea that you’re living a piece of God’s story; you feel a sense of meaning to your days and a sense of connection with other seekers; you have a place to sing and kibitz and practice how to love people. All of that is the present benefit.

But you’re also laying groundwork for what’s to come. Again, the future is a cloud. But one thing that’s certain is that we’ll all experience hard times, grief, loss, doubts, regrets, all the vagaries of how life takes hard turns. To have a grounding in faith, to come to those times with the solid rock of scripture and community beneath us, that can stave off some of the worst of those hard times, namely the fear that randomness rules the world and somehow the universe has it out for you.

I remember, in my previous ministry, visiting a woman in the hospital and seeing on her little roller table a stack of magazines: People, Us Weekly, like that. Fluff. And it made me think, all she has is dessert here. But you can’t live on dessert. She needed nourishment to get better, to make it through this hard time.

Faith for now, faith for the future.

For your consideration.

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