Four days after his landmark 2011 Boston race, Ryan Hall talked about his experiences in a blog entry.
Ryan speaks unabashedly about his faith. I don’t mind. But I wonder if other, more cynical readers don’t sometimes wonder: “Okay, Ryan, so God is on your side. Well, how come He hasn’t made you win a major marathon? Hm? Hm? What’s your answer?”
To my way of thinking, that’s a naïve view of the spiritual path.
I’ve walked a path that Ryan would doubtless consider very different than his. Yet I suspect we’d find areas of agreement.
In my 45 years on this path, I’ve seen that God isn’t concerned with showing off His mighty powers so that people will believe in Him. He’s more interested in quietly helping us grow toward greater happiness. My spiritual teacher says, “True teaching is individual.”
God isn’t interested in putting up a neon sign at the end of the Boston Marathon that declares, in 12-foot flashing letters: “See – a CHRISTIAN RUNNER won!!!”
Do NFL football players still kneel in the end zone and “witness” their faith by praying and crossing themselves? In the late 1980s and early ‘90s, my ex and I would put on our 49ers caps on Sunday afternoon and watch Joe Montana and Jerry Rice destroy the rest of the NFL. I felt, then and now, that all the pious bowing and self-humbling looked shallow.
My spiritual teacher told me, “You have a very objective mind.” At the time, I wondered what it was worth . Perhaps for seeing what works, and what only makes a big noise but doesn’t help anybody very much.
To my mind, the only people who’d be persuaded to follow Christ’s teachings by end-zone displays would be weaklings – the kind of people who find strength in crowds. That’s not religion – it’s politics.
I’m reminded of a song that my spiritual teacher wrote, based on a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, Ekla Chalo (Walk Alone). You can listen to it here. It’s thrilling.
My teacher composed over 300 songs. He says he never wrote a note that wasn’t inspired by God. For me, this song captures the courageous faith of Ryan Hall and Desiree Davila.
“Truth Can Never Die”
Some men call it progress
—Down with those who doubt!—
To join the causes others join,
And shout when others shout.
(Chorus) Come, you’re a man, no passive stone!
Stand up, and call your soul your own!
Go on alone, go on alone!
Banish weakness; go on alone!
Go on alone, go on alone!
Don’t look back: Just go on alone!
Some men lack the daring
Ever to be free.
They shun the heights, and cloud the depths,
And court security.
Cowards see but pride in
Oh, never mind if men are wrong;
So long as they agree!
Claim the power within you
Error to defy:
The world may change or disappear,
But truth can never die!
Did you watch the interviews after the race? Ryan was gracious, open-hearted, and joked with the interviewer. There spake a man who is so confident in his faith that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. That’s how a Christian behaves when his faith comes from inside. Davila was straightforward, strong and sincere.
My teacher’s most advanced female disciple said, “Your religion is tested in the cold light of day.”
Hall’s 2:04:58 was 20 seconds faster than the Boston course record, and the fastest marathon ever by an American. He buried all but three of the elite Kenyans and Ethiopians.
Both Americans ran gutsy races, challenging, pressing, fearlessly leading. Davila pushed the elite African, Carolina Kilel, to the point where Kilel collapsed at the finish.
They’ve done a lot of growing. How could God not be pleased?