Out Our Way: Lighten The Load
Last updated 3/17/2023 at 8:20am
Blurb Hebrews 12:1-2 - "Let us lay aside every weight and the sin that clings close to us, and let us run the race with perseverance ..."
Out our way, spring comes slowly, but when it arrived, both Doc and I were eager to get out into the "big open" and ride. The problem was that we both got lazy during the winter and put on both weight and girth. Ole Doc's cinch was at the last notch when I saddled him up - and even then I had to really pull to get it hooked. He grunted and wheezed as I pulled it with all my might, just barely able to fasten it securely. Even his back cinch, which was always kept loose, seemed tight. But I was no better.
My belt was also on the last hole and I had to really suck in my gut and pull to get it fastened. And when I sought to put my foot in the stirrup, I had difficulty getting my foot high enough because my gut was in the way. Then I had to hop numerous times to try to find the leverage to pull myself up into the saddle. You may recall, as I have shared several times before, the look Doc threw at me when I started to climb up. "One at a time, Fatso!"
All that excess winter weight slowed us both down and the first few weeks were pretty miserable riding - but as we trimmed up and dumped pounds, it gradually became easier and easier until it was a downright pleasure to saddle up and move out at the canter. By June we were able to chase strays all day without being winded or breaking a sweat. I admit I was never much of a cowhand, but I wasn't totally useless and, as Doc and I got in shape, I like to believe we actually began to be an asset rather than a liability to the outfit.
The Apostle Paul was, like most folks of his time, a sports fan. As you likely know, the Olympic games started in ancient Greece and spread across the Roman Empire, including the Middle East, over the centuries. Especially popular were the track and field events, which Paul here cites as a parable for his message. You may have noticed the numerous Greek and Roman artifacts depicting the games show the athletes are trim, sleek and, lo and behold, naked! This was because these athletes did everything they could to lighten the load in order to win the race. Note also they did not get "participation trophies" in those days just for showing up. You had to overcome every obstacle and win the race!
The image Paul shows us is that of the stripped down champion who does any and everything to win the race - eliminating anything that might hinder his winning the victory. Paul admonishes the believer to "run to win" (1 Corinthians 9:24).
He likens sin to extra weight (fat?) that slows us down and keeps us from running at top speed or, above all, winning the race. Who do we race against? Not other people, for each of us has our own personal race. No, we run against the "ruler of this world" (John 12:31) - the great deceiver who blinds so many and fools them into thinking "what is evil is good and what is good is evil" (Isaiah 5:20). We live in such times of moral confusion as the prophets and Christ and the Apostles warned us about. The Prince of Darkness loads us with the weight of such deception and causes us to stumble and fall. Paul challenges us to drop that excess baggage and "strip down" to the basics - you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind ... and you shall love your neighbor as you love yourself." (Matthew 22: 37 - 40).
Fat horses and fat cowboys are not much use up on the Tiger Ridge. Fat runners don't win the games. Fat sinners don't serve the Lord. Time to get in shape for the race is now.
Be blessed and be a blessing!
The Rev. John Bruington is the retired pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Havre. He now lives in Colorado, but continues to write "Out Our Way." He can be reached for comment or dialogue at [email protected]