To see that many people of such a wide variety of ages and sizes running en masse—in the heat of July—with, for the most part, big smiles on their faces, and waving at the camera, leaves me wondering if I am from another planet.
It’s one thing to see the gazelle-like strides of the sinewy champions who lead the pack. I imagine the city skyline dropping away and easily see them crossing miles of savannah grasslands somewhere in the world where walking and running are not hobbies, but travel.
It’s another thing for me to watch the thousands of everyday people who clearly don’t have perfect physiques bopping along at their own pace in the race, folks who will be in the grocery store or the mall or bumper to bumper traffic the day after.
I admire them so much. I get cheered up watching them. Every year I think, maybe some year I can walk at the very back of the pack, where, when I trip, I won’t be trampled by thousands of upright people. And then I think, get real! Better stick to mall walking.
This year, something of a rarity, July 4 is on a Sunday, so the race occurs on that day when our thoughts are particularly on God.
It brought to mind a thought I had once while preparing a talk on the commandments. I was studying Psalm 119, which is the longest of all the psalms and which extols the wisdom and beauty of God’s life-giving laws.
The verse that captured my imagination was “Lightly I run in the way of your commands.” And the phrase that follows is translated variously as “for you open my docile heart” or “for you enlarge my heart” or “make broad my heart.”
I thought then, and I think again today, that this is a challenge all people qualify for: even, perhaps especially, the stumbling.
And in my mind’s eye, I think what it would look like if this passion for running was replicated in conforming to God's ways as the psalmist envisioned it thousands of years ago. I imagine wave upon wave of people, as far as the eye can see, of all shapes and sizes and ages, coming down the road, and their faces are covered with joy. All of them are running lightly, because God has done his work enlarging their hearts and trained them in his way.
Gretchen Keiser, Editor