In case you’ve missed my recent Tweets and Facebook posts, I bought a Nike+ Running Sport Band. Just like all Nike products, these things make you feel like a professional athlete. This one specifically, however, tracks each run you make by distance, pace, time, and it even tracks the calories you’ve burned. On top of all of this, each run you post on your Nike+ Running profile gets broadcasted on Facebook or Twitter. So now people will know that I’m not kidding about my frequent, Olympic-like runs.
After posting my second run, I got to thinking what it’d be like if there were a device to track our walks with Jesus – a Jesus+ Spirit Band? What would it be like if I could see the exact moments where I was running at a consistent pace and the moments where I slowed down or even tripped up? What would it be like to see – after posting so many spiritual runs and workouts – the overall progress I’ve made since I started running? Honestly, I think I might be impressed by what I’d see. But I don’t think God would be.
God isn’t disappointed in me (or really in any of us); He simply aims higher when it comes to setting the bar. While we seek to minimize our mistakes, He seeks to make us incapable of mistakes. His work will not be complete until our sinful selves have given way to our spiritual selves – until the old wine is tossed out with the old wineskin and replaced with new wine in a new wineskin. Until faith becomes sight, God will not be content with His creation.
How, then, could we ever know if we’re making progress? Shouldn’t there be some kind of validation – even from God – that says we’re doing a certain thing right? This is where we discover that something like a Jesus+ band that tracks the individual’s progress isn’t needed. It wouldn’t be needed because there’s this thing called the church – followers of The Way, God’s people, Christ’s body. In other words, we don’t need a bracelet to tell us we’re doing something right or wrong; we’ve got running buddies. We have brothers and sisters to keep us on track, to help us keep a steady pace, and to help us continue to the very end – to endure the entire race, not just the first leg of it.
A Jesus+ Spirit Band would be useless for yet another reason: God’s focused on what’s before us, not what’s behind. Yes, seeing our overall progress would allow us to see the moments we did things God’s way and were faithful. But it would also force us to see the moments we dropped out – the moments we decided to run at our own pace or not run at all. It would force us to remember our sins. Of course, we already do, but if it was put to a chart we’d see just how damaging that sin was at that point in our lives. And it might revive the guilt and shame that God had worked very hard to extract with His grace. We’d either react by running faster at our own pace – never to again make those same mistakes. Or we’d react by walking away because we had lost all hope.
God does want not us to dwell on the past to improve our futures. Or, to put it in a way my old pastor (Danny O’Neil) once did, you cannot drive a tractor in a straight line by looking behind you. You pick a target in front of you – way in front of you. Jesus and His perfection – the way He lived His life in constant, unwavering faith – is our target. We run to Him and we don’t stop until we get there.
If we aim for an imaginary perfect version of ourselves, we’ll fail at reaching God’s goal every time – even if we succeed at perfecting ourselves to our standards. For God’s standard is much higher than we could ever reach on our own. And if we aim at His standard (Jesus); if we align our thoughts to His, our language to His, our intentions to His, our attitudes to His; and if we run at the pace He sets rather than our own, then we will be so focused on what’s before us that we won’t remember the things behind.
“By your endurance you will gain your lives,” – Jesus in Luke 21:19