Indiana Jones is talking with Marion Ravenwood and a comment is made about how tired he feels and how old he is. “It’s not the years”, he says, “it’s the mileage”. How often it feels like that for us.
Preachers often talk about how the Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint, as if that were likely to encourage us. Why would 26 miles 385 yards feel more encouraging than 100 metres? I do not deny the truth of what has been said to us countless times from the pulpit or in “pastoral” conversations, however anyone will tell you that there are ways of saying things and ways of saying things.
I guess the words of Doctor Jones reflect how one would assess the likely longevity of a car. How many miles it’s done will be far more pertinent than how old it is. For us, it sometimes feels that we have grown weary in our Christian walk not so much because of how long we have been walking, but rather because in the course of walking we have been applying so much effort, straining to be better, harder working, holier, more humble, more patient, more forgiving. For me, “mileage” conjures up images not of having been a Christian for many years but rather of having spent those years striving and struggling, fighting and fussing, dithering and doubting.
It is not meant to be thus. God never intended for us to be worn out by our lives. On the contrary, the Christian life is offered to us an alternative to burdensome load of life without God. “Come to me all you are weary and heavily burdened and you will find rest for your souls. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart…for my yolk is easy and my burden is light”. Does that sound like hard work? Does that sound like a lot of effort? A marathon? Lots of mileage? Does it?
If your life as a Christian has begun to feel like a lot of hard work, like a lot of mileage, if it has felt that way for as long as you can remember, then something is badly wrong. This is not the life that God has called you to or saved you for. We undoubtedly work for God and try to live a life pleasing to Him, but always in his strength. Every breath we take and every step we make (I think I can hear The Police in the background) is for Him, but through Him as well. We ask Him what he would have us do, how we should spend our time and energy. The we ask Him for the strength, time and energy for what He would have us do and the humility to acknowledge that everything comes from Him and all of the glory and praise goes back to Him. That’s how God meant it to be – a vigorous, active, busy life, but never exhausting. A marathon in distance perhaps, but through Him we should arrive at the finish line full of strength, not crawling on our hands and knees (see my attempts to run the Windsor Half-Marathon for a helpful illustration of the distinction).