A Strong Man Enters–Psalm 5:7

But I, by your great love,
    can come into your house;
in reverence I bow down
    toward your holy temple.–Psalm 5:7

Although I am primarily a runner–and recently a bike rider–I do now and again lift weights. Years ago, when I was in high school, I really got into lifting weights. During my junior year, I quit the wrestling team when faced with the choice between suffering through Thanksgiving break or making weight. I opted for turkey. After that, I started going to the gym each day rather than to wrestling practice, and through months of work, I saw some very good outcomes.

Today, when I’m on the machines at Planet Fitness, I see the weight lifters. They’re in the squat racks performing unusual exercises. They carry clipboards to record their routines. My limited weight lifting is simple enough that I can keep track of my routine in my head.

Weight lifting can be addictive. You get that rush of blood to your muscles without making your lungs and heart feel as if they’re going to explode. Your muscles swell up after the workout so you feel like Arnold, plus, over time, they get bigger. You get stronger. Strong is good.

Strength is good, whether it be how much you can bench press, how fast you can move a bicycle, or how far you can hit a golf ball. It’s good to be strong in front of the buffet or when tempted to squander your money. But as useful as strength is on this earth, it does absolutely zero good when we come before God.

You think you’re strong? God can out lift you, out run you, and out jump you. His self control, His wealth, and His skill can make yours seem puny. Come before Him saying, “I am strong,” and He may very well show you that you are not strong.

In this world, I possess some strength, but only when I come before my God in reverence, only when I bow, can I enter His house. And frankly, if I cannot enter that house, then all the strength in all the other places of this world isn’t worth a five-pound dumbbell.

Psalm 73:23-26

Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
    And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
    but God is the strength of my heart
    and my portion forever.

Let Mercy Lead

Pointed the wrong way at the starting line of the 2015 Great Plains 10K.
Pointed the wrong way at the starting line of the 2015 Great Plains 10K.

Tomorrow morning, just under twenty-four hours from right now, I’ll be crossing the starting line of the Rock the Parkway Half Marathon, my second race at that distance. A year ago, when I ran Hospital Hill, I basically just wanted to finish respectably. This year, I will feel that I have dropped the ball–or perhaps the baton–if I don’t break two hours. Succeed or fail, I’ll report here tomorrow.

On my longest training run, thirteen days ago, I did something I rarely do when running outside. I listened to music. Rich Mullins, a favorite of mine for many years, sang a song that I’d never really thought about.

The lyrics struck me powerfully enough as I made my way through my last couple of miles that I replayed the track. Here’s the chorus of “Let Mercy Lead.”

Let mercy lead
Let love be the strength in your legs
And in every footprint that you leave
There’ll be a drop of grace

Is there a better lyric for a Christian runner? My prayer for tomorrow and for my every endeavor is that the strength in my legs is not my strength and that the legacy of my footprints is not simply my work.

Should the first verse and chorus of that song not hook you, the second verse surely will:

You’ll run the race
That takes us way beyond
All our trials and all our failures
And all the good we dream of
But you can’t see yet where it is you’re heading
But one day you’ll see the face of love

I know where my 13.1 miles will end tomorrow, hopefully somewhere before 9:30 am, but I do not know the destination of the truly important race I am running. That doesn’t matter. Tomorrow’s race is more of a ritual, an outward symbol of an inward struggle. I can run as far and as fast as I need to when I’m sharing the road with someone who authored the mercy that will lead and the love that will strengthen me.