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The race set before us

From the June 2, 2014 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

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Do you sometimes awake thinking about your day with less than enthusiasm, or even with dread? Perhaps a demanding boss or a judgmental relative haunts your prospects, or anxiety about deadlines and too much to do lurks in the shadows. You may be facing persistent unemployment and mounting bills, or a troubling disease confronts you. But right where that view looms ahead, God is already there to help you.

If you have ever run in or been a spectator at a long-distance race, you will have seen the crowd lining the course. They are cheering for the runners, giving support—nourishment, refreshment, and encouragement. If we widen our focus to include our spiritual sense, we can envision such spectators cheering us on in life’s long race. But, rather than people, it’s Soul—a helpful synonym for God—that constantly encourages us, points out the way, and brings out the best in us, enabling us to do whatever is required of us.

The writer of the book of Hebrews in the Bible, appears to have focused on similar ideas: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (12:1, 2).

We each have a unique race set before us, giving us opportunities to express divine Soul, the source of our original identity and talent. We are Soul’s individual expression of goodness, usefulness, and beauty. Christ Jesus showed us the way to run life’s race well. He always did what was pleasing to his Maker. Each of us can continually grow in our faith and ability to follow Jesus along this Christian path. We all come from the same divine source, but each one expresses the limitless qualities of Soul in a distinctive way. No one is separated from Soul, which is right where we are, and right where we are going. Each race unfolds Soul’s own expression of infinitely glorious being. That expression is you and me, and the divine Mind and its ideas are our cloud of witnesses.

The Apostle Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air” (I Corinthians 9:24–26).

As I see it, Paul understood that each of us was designed to win the race that is set before us, and in fact, no one else can win our race. So we can run like winners, looking with our mind’s eye toward our Creator—enabling us, guiding us, rejoicing in us as we go from victory to victory.

You could say that laying aside unnecessary weights might include laying aside wrong motivations in the race. It isn’t about competing for limited supply with other men or women. We aren’t here to please our family or our boss or society, to accumulate material wealth and trophies and stuff. We are demonstrating our spiritual mastery over each challenge as it appears around the bend in order to hear those welcome words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23). We are uncovering priceless treasures within our own identity along this learning pathway.

We each have a unique race set before us, giving us opportunities to express divine Soul, the source of our original identity and talent.

With this approach, our daily tasks take on more meaning than just meeting a deadline or bringing home a paycheck or placating a relative or boss. Human appreciation is what you might call a corruptible crown—it fades all too quickly. But the incorruptible crown of God’s approval is felt to the very roots of our being. When we are running the race God has set before us, we feel the concord of being in alignment with Soul’s plan for us and the deep satisfaction of following this course. We can participate fully in our race by learning to love what we are doing today, even if the very same work felt like drudgery yesterday. New ideas, new abilities, new opportunities open up as we consciously choose to express the kindness, honesty, consistency, and generosity of divine Love in every little thing we do. Actively loving draws us into the right course with God.

Does the race “set before us” include the need to overcome disease? Then you can run this race with patience and temperance and learn what is already within you that is completely able to rise above sickness or sin. Your grand and noble expression of Soul is being revealed even as you read this, uncovering who you really are. What seems like a narrow and rocky pathway or parched desert is actually lined with the presence of Soul, which reveals strength of character and higher motives as you work your way from goal to goal. As you acknowledge more of the presence of Soul and less of an imprisoning disease, the pathway widens into green pastures of joy and peace.

Mary Baker Eddy writes: “In Christian Science, progress is demonstration, not doctrine. This Science is ameliorative and regenerative, delivering mankind from all error through the light and love of Truth. It gives to the race loftier desires and new possibilities.” She continues: “Hungering and thirsting after a better life, we shall have it, and become Christian Scientists; learn God aright, and know something of the ideal man, the real man, harmonious and eternal” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 235).

I’m grateful to have been able to prove how tuning in to divine Mind’s guidance cancels out the hazing of mortal mind’s mean messages. Recognizing the all-presence of Soul eliminates any foot of malice intruding into the path to trip you up along the way. Claiming Soul’s equipoise as your own, will successfully launch and satisfyingly conclude each leg of your race in a timely way. This race is your life-purpose and is designed to bring to light the best of who you really are.

Some time ago, I was offered an opportunity to ride a horse, something I hadn’t done for years. Although I enjoyed the experience, I found myself unable to easily blend with the movement of the horse as he loped along. Later that evening, recalling the teeth-rattling ride, I was surprised by a forceful thought: “See? You failed again. You can’t even do a simple ride, something even a child—even you—used to do well. You just want to give up and sink into the ground.”

Hearing these thoughts, I began to feel bad about my day and myself. As that line of thinking continued with a list of other unsuccessful endeavors, I felt myself sinking lower. But then I stood back mentally and asked myself if I really agreed with those undermining thoughts. Suddenly, an equally forceful disagreement rose up within me, and I said: “That’s not true! That’s not what I want. I don’t want to give up. I want to succeed. And I’m willing to do what it takes to succeed.”

I held on to that new thought until the old litany of inadequacy faded away. In the next few days, through unsolicited contacts, I found that even experienced riders have similar challenges with some horses. I was able to improve my riding skills, and along with other accomplishments, deemed it a joyously progressive experience. I learned to shut the door on the negative jeers crowding my thoughts, and open to Soul’s replenishing encouragement.

I have applied this lesson in many directions since then. And so can you. Whatever weights you may have carried around—a negative sense of identity, inability, harmful characteristics, dubious qualities, vulnerabilities—that you thought were you, can all be laid aside so that you can run well in your Soul-lined pathway to grace.

Then you will feel free to anticipate joyfully the great views that will be appearing as you round each bend, knowing that Soul is always pointing the way. Learn to run with these truths, and let the old weights of failure drop away. Soul enables you to run well, and draws you ahead with an unfailing expectation of good.

Cynthia Clague is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher who lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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