Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hitting the Wall

If you have tracked with this blog very long, you recognize that I am not an every day blogger. Neither am I a weekly blogger. I suppose that if I were a W. Robertson Nicoll, who as a cigarette smoking invalid with little else to do, I might have more to say, more often. (He is responsible for The Expositor’s Greek New Testament.) I am none of the above. I have concluded that there needs to be another spelling: blah-ging. Even as a once-a-month writer, I find myself challenged in offering something of enduring value beyond mindless musings. My confession this time for being a week overdue is a deep seated belief that I have “hit the wall.”
In itself “hitting the wall” is an odd but highly familiar metaphor. Through most of life it was associated with long distance runners who, regardless of conditioning, talk about that point between starting and finishing when the certainty of crossing the line was subject to doubt. In recent years I have heard it referenced on the popular food-a-thon known as Man vs Food in which Adam Richman takes on the challenge of consuming copious amounts of it. Regardless of venue the meaning is the same: “It would be real easy to quit right now!” In both cases success comes by “pushing through”. While it is somewhat accurate to describe life/ministry in terms of a marathon, let it be said that having consumed far more than is healthy in a diet of either crow or their droppings will also so manifest itself. (If you are asking yourself, “Did he really just say what I think he said?” Yes!)
In his helpful work, Halftime, Bob Buford provided guidance for people in the tough middle years make sense out of that normal time of assessment and struggle. It was nice to know that what we were experiencing in our 40's was normal. It was more of a hump than a wall. I have certainly recommended it to a number of people who looked and sounded like they could benefit from it. “Hey, Bob, how about writing about hitting the wall!” I suppose it may be out there and I simple haven’t had it recommended or stumbled upon it. In any case, here are my thoughts about it.
While it may be advisable for a runner to alter their pace as they regroup, it is never recommended to simply stop. (I suppose it could hold true with eating, but let’s stick with the running scenario.) Whether the wall is physiological or psychological or spiritual doesn’t seem to matter. Once you stop, it is really hard to get started again. In a recent conversation with a retired pastor friend, I asked him what his journey had been like and what he would do differently. (This is real evidence that I am not who I was at 30. I’m asking what someone else thinks!) He confessed going through the same struggle and suggested taking a sabbatical in order to regroup, something that he didn’t do. It appears far too easy to make poorly informed, rash decisions under the stress of the moment. Slowing down is preferable to sitting down. At the very least it allows you to make certain that you are running in the right direction.
I’m always very guarded when it comes to humanizing the experiences of Jesus. Since I subscribe to the doctrine of His impeccability, I simple can’t support the more emotionally driven analogies. That whole scene in the Garden, the night of His arrest, makes me wonder if He had “hit the wall”. I’m okay with His complete Godness and yet total human exhaustion in that moment of His race. I just don’t happen to think that He considered quitting. It looks and sounds like He slowed sufficiently to ramp up for the Grand Finale.
I plan on finishing the race. If it looks like I’m not doing as much as before, it’s because I’m not. I’m slowing my pace at the advice of Isaiah to make certain that the pace setter is in front, not behind. I am “waiting for the Lord” in the confidence of “renewing my strength”. Come to think of it, I like the idea of “drafting” behind Jesus!