Saturday, July 7, 2012

Personal Best

Results from the Wild West Festival 5K race, sponsored by the cross country team at Fort Hays State University:

Time: 27:42.3

Position by age and gender cohort (males age 30-39): 11 of 14
Position by gender: 78 of 110

Finish position: 117 of 222
Pace: 8:56 per mile

Not a world-beating time or even a local record of any sort, but for a skinny guy with low bodily-kinesthetic intelligence and high inhibitions, today's modest feat of physical endurance was a milestone -- a 3.2-milestone.

Though I was breathing heavily at the end of the race, I felt good. My body felt fit for another go-round, or at least part of the way around again. I've been accustomed to jogging 5 miles per hour on the treadmill under controlled conditions, so imagine my surprise when I did the arithmetic and found that I was jogging at 6.7 m.p.h. Going into the race I was hoping to finish within 40 minutes. I performed better than I ever imagined.

Five of my Capuchin brothers jogged and ran the race with me. Two others came along to cheer us. It was gratifying to be welcomed by them at the finish line, and it was fun to discover our times and performance data. Each brother's accomplishment was the fraternity's accomplishment. The good of one was the good of all. And everybody broke a sweat, including the two brothers who waited at the finish! In the festive atmosphere of the morning, even the most individualistic of entrants would have to concede that he did not run this race alone, or that her steps were guided by the good will of those whose stood watch at the water stand and kilometer markers.

If only the Holy Spirit could document for us our progress in the spiritual life in quantifiable terms. Perhaps some of us would become more eager to excel in our pursuit of her divine fruits. Not that we should look to compete against others for a greater "share" in the fruits of the Spirit, but that we should strive to live a more strenuous Christian life confident that, when we cultivate our gifts to the fullest, each of us does receive a share in the harvest of the Spirit. That each of us is blessed richly unto sufficiency, whatever the measure may be, should free us from all anxiety about our share in the glory of God.

When all have done their personal best, those who have "accomplished" great acts of faith, hope, and love and those who have "achieved" less are reckoned equally meritorious. To paraphrase Scripture, the one who gathers much does not gather too much, and the one who gathers little does not gather too little, but when all is collected we share greatness: a goodness in excess.

Pray for me and my Capuchin brothers that we carry on our continuing experiment in religious life with vigor, inspired by God's grace to do our personal best, even when we cannot see or measure the fruits of our labor. Pray also that what we reap in the Spirit, we share with all peoples. What is sown in the fields by men, women, and children belongs firstly and lastly to the God of jubilee, who will return it all to us.

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