Finishing the Race: Lost Sayings of the Jedi Christian 7

Finishing the Race: Lost Sayings of the Jedi Christian 7

I think there are a lot of younger generation Christians who want to live a radical, thoughtful life of discipleship. They are disinterested in abstract, conceptual, theoretical Christianity; they want applied Christianity, the kind the disciples lived. In the past such young men and women looked to mentors who exemplified the ¢â‚¬Ëœgood life.’ It is my contention that today’s aspiring Jedi Christians suffer because my generation has failed to produce Yoda’s. There are important lesson they need to learn, one of which was illustrated by the last night’s Cubs collapse in the eight inning.

Let me refresh your memory. Today Cub’s fans will find out whether this years team has merely stumbled or taken another embarrassing and disqualifying fall. Last night when I left for a community meeting the Cubs were ahead 3-0 and only five outs from winning a playoff series that would send them to the World Series for the first time since 1945. When I returned home they had lost the game 8-3 and were facing elimination. They are legendary for starting strong and collapsing just before the finish line.

One of the lessons Yoda’s taught young Jedi’s is that the Christian life is a marathon not a sprint. It started with the Apostle Paul who compared the Christian life to a race which should be run to WIN.

[Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)]

The writer of Hebrews continues the theme with these words:

[Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God]

These ancient texts remind us that running to win requires self-control, discipline and laying aside distractions and encumbrances. I am not to ask what is allowed or permissible in my life. In my life choices I should think of the Sears advertisements featuring good, better and best; I should always aspire to the best.

I have not been without Yoda’s in my life and my father is one of them. He is 80 years old and after over 50 years of marriage and ministry he finds himself in a situation he would not have chosen. He and mom are as close as two humans can be. In their 50+ years of marriage they were probably apart only 2 weeks. When my brother was born with brain damage they exemplified servanthood and sacrificial love, somehow managing to provide his care while pastoring a growing, demanding church. And then having run the race, they settled into the retirement we all knew they deserved. My fondest memories are of them sitting in their own home, side-by-side in their recliners–reading, chatting, laughing and enjoying the fruit of an investment in each other’s lives and the lives of so many others.

But it turns out their race was not over. A few years ago mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and after staying in their home as long as they possibly could, they moved to a retirement community where the distance between his small, one-room apartment and her room in the Alzheimer’s unit is short, but seems to him like he’s in Hong King and she’s in London. The adjustment from their own home to a retirement community has not been an easy one, and the long good-bye of my mother’s Alzheimer’s is almost impossible to bear. Loneliness. Separation. Silence from God. Is this the reward of the life well-lived?

As a son I am watching from the sidelines, dealing with my own emotions about their situation and revisiting age-old questions about the wisdom and sovereignty of God, I find myself needing my dad to show me how to finish the race. From childhood we feel that way about our parents. In talking about her father’s unexpected death Gwyneth Paltrow said of her parents, “they were the ones in your life that you always thought, ‘I’m safe because they’re there, and they’re so smart, and they know everything, and I can always go to them.’ And then (in death) they evaporate.”

I realized that I needed my dad to work through his situation for another reason. I needed him to show me what it looks like for a Christian man to grow old and face the end game.

And he’s been doing that. He’s arranged for mom to come to his apartment every afternoon, and they sit side-by-side, holding hands and enjoying each other’s presence. He reads to her, they pray together and they watch some old classic movies. On Sunday they go to church at the retirement community and then enjoy lunch together.

There are still challenges. Recently, when my dad fell ill and was hospitalized, he was physically depleted and very discouraged. I didn’t know what to say to him and finally I blurted out. “Dad, I need you to show me how to finish the race,”

I was referring to something else the Apostle Paul said about the Christian life; it is not just about competing, it is about completion.

[I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (1 Timothy 4:7-8)]

Young Jedi Christians are at the beginning of a long marathon and their endurance needs to be supported by a cloud of witnesses, by Yoda’s who are completing the race and not collapsing in the eight inning like my loveable Cubs! They need to know their race is not solo, but a team event lived-out in community.

A story by the late Fred Rogers, himself a Yoda to millions, is a touching reminder of what it means to run the race with a cloud of witnesses:

[Have you heard my favorite story that came from the Seattle Special Olympics? Well, for the 100-yard dash there were nine contestants, all of them so-called physically or mentally disabled. All nine of them assembled at the starting line and at the sound of the gun, they took off. But not long afterward one little boy stumbled and fell and hurt his knee and began to cry. The other eight children heard him crying; they slowed down, turned around and ran back to him. Every one of them ran back to him. One little girl with Down Syndrome bent down and kissed the boy and said, “This’ll make it better.” And the little boy got up and he the rest of the runners linked their arms together and joyfully walked to the finish line. They all finished the race at the same time. And when they did, everyone in that stadium stood up and clapped and whistled and cheered for a long, long, time. People who were there are still telling the story with great delight. And you know why. Because deep down, we know that what matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win too. Even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.]

Young Jedi. You are in a marathon not a sprint. Running to win takes self-control, discipline, the laying aside of distractions. The good news is you CAN finish the race and you are not alone. Yoda’s are going before you and are standing beside you. When they hear you cry they will “make it better.” Like my dad is showing me, they will show you how to finish the race. And Yoda’s, finish the race with dignity, Jedi are counting on you.

‚© CRS Communications 2003

Posted in Staublog, Thoughts in October 15, 2003 by | No Comments »

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