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    Running the Race

    As we run with perseverance, encouragement and conviction, we create Christian community. May 22, 2012 by Major Ray Harris
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought


    Running has played an important role in my life. It has kept me in shape, provided good moments of laughter and offered me a helpful image with which to grasp the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul's final words to Timothy hold significance for me: “… I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). I have learned much through this image over the years, but especially through a run in 2011.

    I have a son who runs. On occasion he and I have run together. But early last year Colin began a run on his own. It was a cold January morning when he stood at the top of Signal Hill in St. John's, N.L., looked out at the north Atlantic Ocean, did a little jig and started running ... toward the Pacific Ocean … 7,600 kilometres away.

    Running the Trans-Canada Highway at the rate of a-marathon-a-day is a daunting task. It takes its toll not only on the body but on the spirit. Great perseverance is needed. True, a run like this enables you to see the exceptional beauty of this land. But to get up successive mornings and face at least 42 kilometres is tough work. When I drove the RV support vehicle for Colin, I witnessed those mornings when his body pleaded for more sleep, but still he got up and ran. At one point in the run, my wife, Cathie, e-mailed our son: “Run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (see Hebrews 12:1). He did. Perseverance is often simply a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. This is necessary in running and in matters of faith. There are times when our praying vanishes into thin air; there are times when relationships in congregations become toxic and we are inclined to pack it in. But we don't. We get up in the morning and run. We persevere.

    Perseverance is necessary, but it also requires encouragement. Colin needed it. And it came in various forms: students who wrote notes to him, schools that created outdoor projects, Newfoundlanders who provided a meal or a power outlet, a Salvationist congregation in Toronto that created a video for him, friends who cheered him on Facebook, cyclists and police who escorted him into Regina, and friends who took time out of their lives to drive the RV for him. Perseverance in Christian faith requires encouragement. Note that the same biblical writer who emphasized perseverance also saw the Christian community as a place for “encouraging one another” (see Hebrews 10:25). It, too, comes in different forms, such as expressions of thanks or accompanying someone as they go through a difficult situation. Encouragement fuels perseverance.

    Colin's run was born as a personal dream, but the dream alone couldn't sustain the run. We talked often about the convictions that grounded his run. Why was he doing this? His work as an outdoor educator convinced Colin that it's becoming essential for Canadian youth to spend less time in front of television and computer screens and get outside (see TakeMeOutside.ca). As he ran across Canada, Colin also spoke in schools to over 20,000 students. He may never know the full impact of his presentations. But he ran out of a deep conviction. There are moments when Salvationists will step back and ask the same question: Why am I doing this? Why am I engaged in the sometimes hard and lonely task of living with Christian integrity? In moments like this, convictions play a very important role.

    Running creates community. In many respects Colin ran across Canada alone. And yet in important ways a community formed as he ran. He met some interesting characters on the Trans-Canada Highway, such as Jean Beliveau completing his 12-year walk around the world, a doctor running to promote prostate cancer research or cyclists riding on behalf of accident victims. He also became aware of an online community cheering him on and supporting him financially. Salvationist community is created as together we serve Christmas dinners for street people, visit shut-ins or rehearse in instrumental and vocal groups. Community is created as we run. This is true along the Trans-Canada Highway, and it's true in The Salvation Army.

    On October 25, Cathie and I stood at the bottom of a hill at Royal Roads University in Victoria. A crowd gathered. Students formed an honour guard and rehearsed their cheer: “Go, Colin, go! Go, Colin, go!” We sensed movement at the top of the hill. There he was, surrounded by a running team from a nearby elementary school. They reached the bottom. He put his foot into the Pacific Ocean, joked with the students, talked to journalists and then we hugged. Colin had finished the race set before him.

    As Salvationists, may we run the race set before us with perseverance, encouragement and conviction, and so create Christian community.

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