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May 21, 2009

My Personal Jesus

“Your own personal Jesus -
Someone to hear your prayers, someone who’s there.”
- Depeche Mode, “Personal Jesus” (video after post)
Here is the “tease” for this weekend’s sermon at a local church:

It just spoke to me, like … like … it was some kind of sign or something. And I figured that since they asked … I should go ahead and offer a couple of answers. Just what IS my Jesus like, anyway?

Almost immediately, I thought of the ridiculous Sports Jesus statues (often referred to jokingly as "Jesus Got Game" and other silly monikers) that have become a bit of an Internet laughingstock, and the goofy thought that came to mind was this: my Jesus is a trail runner.

Ultra Jesus!

I mean ... you know Jesus would be awesome at it, right? He’s probably got leg strength and lung capacity that’s completely off the charts. He’s not much for frills – in fact, he’s content to run with long hair and sandals like the Tarahumara runners who once visited (and dominated) the Leadville 100 in the early 1990s in nothing more than shorts and leather huaraches. I can run beside him like a child; he runs alongside me like an eternal pacer, able to pull me through the toughest, darkest sections of any adventure.

Granted, my example is kind of corny - and the statue is patently absurd - but there’s actually an element of seriousness to such thoughts for me. As it happens, this same topic came up in a small group discussion a couple of weeks ago, where I made a statement that might be somewhat objectionable: namely, that I get far more spiritual meaning out of a multi-hour trail run than I do while sitting in church.

If I ever begin to wonder about the presence of some divine hand in my life, I usually need look no further than the trails I travel day after day. The easiest way to for me restore my faith is to become immersed in the beauty of God’s creation - and there’s no more effective way for me to do that than to experience humility on the slopes of a high mountain, in the depths of a forest, or through a vast open countryside.

These are the moments where I marvel at the grand design; these are the places of beautiful seclusion where I sense God’s presence most acutely. I’m reminded that I’m another one of His creations, just as fearfully and wonderfully made as the most majestic surroundings I’ll ever encounter. It’s humbling, and inspiring, and the most compelling path to worship that I’ve ever known.

So yeah, as corny as it sounds … my Jesus is a trail runner. I’m not sure if that’s the answer the pastor has in mind on Sunday, but it’s the one that works for me. I’m hoping that’s all that matters.

*P.S. This Saturday, my Jesus and I will be taking in the sights of the Western States trail, at the first day of the WS training camp. The 32-mile run will be my first taste of the challenge that awaits in (gulp!) a mere five weeks – and it should give me lots of material to pray about.

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?”
- Job 12:7-9 (New International Version)

“Reach out and touch faith.”
- Depeche Mode, “Personal Jesus” (click to play)

(P.P.S. I actually like Marilyn Manson's version of this song a lot better ... but those guys are WAY too creepy for me. So you're getting the original, which is still pretty darn cool.)


Gretchen 5/21/09, 8:24 PM  

You always have the greatest posts, Donald.

Jo Lynn 5/21/09, 8:38 PM  

Okay, something very very funny: (Don't tell anybody) I thought that song said, "Reach out and touch ME" LOLOLOLOL

don 5/21/09, 9:49 PM  

Apparently Jesus cleans a NYC Synagogue on the sabbath. Its a fact. Check it out here: http://www.someoneinatree.com/2009/05/ive-got-friend-in-jesus.html

keith 5/22/09, 3:45 AM  

None of my most spiritual moments came from sitting in a place made by people or pondering stories told by people. I find the most connection to spirituality or a 'religious experience' being as close as one can me to raw, untouched wilderness and a primitive state of being. no need to label it or remove it further from what it is.

Thomas 5/22/09, 4:27 AM  

I know exactly what you mean by getting spiritual meaning out of a run, but then again I'm not a religious person and never got much out of church service. But being out there in nature at dawn is purely awesome, and has to be experienced rather then described.

Shame about the Marilyn Manson song though. I used to be into Depeche Mode waaaaay back then, but I get more kicks out of MM these days (ok, he's old news by now, too).

Dave 5/22/09, 5:10 AM  

Donald, I blogged about this last June...one of my postings I am most proud of writing. I think yoiu would enjoy it...I hope.


Dave 5/22/09, 5:13 AM  

BTW - I really enjoy reading this...you are a talented writer...and so I run on...

David Ray 5/22/09, 6:40 AM  

At my house, Johnny Cash owns that song now. :)

Annette 5/22/09, 9:07 AM  

Marilyn Manson did a version of that song? A bit ironic, isn't it? Yikes - I don't thing I'd want to see/hear that one. :)

Interesting musings. I will now be thinking about that topic for myself. Thanks. :)

runningcommentaries 5/22/09, 9:59 AM  

I couldn't agree more! Although church is great, I usually have better talks with God on a run (especially a trail run) or near the ocean. There's nothing like a huge mountain or vast ocean to remind you that you're not alone nor does the world revolve around you. It's the best.

Good luck this weekend-- I've run stretches of the WS trail and it's breathtaking.

msimpson 5/22/09, 9:20 PM  

I love reading your posts - always inspiring. I agree - Jesus would be a bare-bones ultra runner, enjoying the creation around him. The WS trail is an amazing place with incredible views - enjoy!

AKA Alice 5/22/09, 9:48 PM  

Church is a man made construct. Nature is God's. It's not at all surprising that many of us find our spiritual selves while running than while sitting in church.

You had me at Depeche Mode anyway....

sara 5/24/09, 8:39 AM  

i'm in agreement with (most) all other commenters--my "Jesus" is best found outside, running down a trail.

maybe this is why i haven't been to church in over 5 years :)

hope you had a great WS training run!

RBR 5/25/09, 10:22 AM  

I ma with you I think Marilyn Manson's version is better.

True story: My mother (VERY square, mommy type) has met Marilyn Manson (not his real name) several times and has been to his home for an art show (he is also an artist) and says he is really a very nice young man and not at all creepy in real life." She did not have such kind words for his previous wife (the stripper. Call it "burlesque" all you want, lady, you are a stripper) Anyhoo, she said the wife was a "snot" . Strong words coming from my mother.

Have a great run and training weekend!

Deene 5/26/09, 11:50 AM  

very excellent posts. i think jesus' favorite trails are in the rocky mountains.

ZeroToBoston 5/31/09, 2:27 PM  

Ultra Jesus: just classic.

- Dean

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