Running on Faith: New Shoes

When we’re little, the only thing separating us from awesome, near-superhuman powers is the right set of shoes.

 When I was in first grade, I assumed I was horrible in gym class because my shoes were lame. I was sure if I could just talk Mom into buying a pair of popular sneakers—something that had some cool racing stripes on the side, maybe—I’d be way better at kickball and dodgeball. And running? I’d be a tiny blur, able to run faster than our station wagon and leap over small ponies.

 Yessir. A pair of the right set of shoes would make all the difference, I thought.

 And you know what? I was right.

 Last week, I bought a new pair of running shoes. It was time. My old ones were looking like a couple of unidentified bits of roadkill (they smelled suspiciously like that, too). After a five-mile run, they felt as forgiving as a pair of tiny granite countertops.

 And while my new shoes, alas, didn’t give me superhuman powers—I was still just as stubbornly slow as ever—the difference was nothing short of revolutionary.

To run in new shoes is like running on cotton candy, tho’ not as sticky. Lacing them up is like strapping a pair of singing rainbows to your soles. Oh, sure, that sense of luxurious tranquility may be long gone by the time you hit mile seven. But runners take what comfort we can.

As I’ve said before, I think running has something in common with our walk of faith. And I think there are times when our spiritual journeys can use their own set of new shoes.

I gotta be honest: I’d recently been in a bit of a Bible-reading funk. While I try to read the Bible pert near every day, a few months ago, I hit a wall, right in the middle of Proverbs. I’d had enough of hearing about wise men and fools and virtuous women and children in need of a whuppin’—at least for a little while. I put down the Good Book and told myself I’d pick it back up in a few days.

After a couple of months, I figured out something was amiss. Turns out, I think, I might’ve just needed some new shoes: Or, more to the point, I needed a new plan for reading the Bible.

Well into my home Bible-reading drought, the ministry I work at launched into Biblica’s Community Bible Experience. We were given New Testaments that had been stripped of their chapters and verses, and the books themselves had been shoved into an unfamiliar (though, the folks at Biblica tell us, a more historically accurate) order. We were asked to plow through the Testament during our normal devotionals.

Now, I’d be lying to you if I said the experience radically changed the way I think about my faith (though some people apparently have). But I did come away with a new appreciation of the Scriptures that inform that faith. The books, stripped as they were of their standard biblical trappings, seemed to take on new resonance and urgency and power.

For instance: There were no red letters in the Community Bible Experience.

Now, I know that many of you may love those red letters. And that’s great. But I come from a newspaper background, where copy was just black letters on white newsprint. My editors were constantly stripping all sorts of emphases out of my stories—my clever italics and my moments of ALL CAPS. They said that my words should carry the story. If I needed to utilize extra bells and whistles to convey a point, perhaps I should use stronger words. And ever since then, italics (which I still use often) and other typographical doo-dads have struck me as visual cheats.

Red-lettering Christ’s words always feels a bit like a cheat to me—as if readers can’t be trusted to pay attention otherwise. It’s not like Jesus, when he walked the earth, had angels angels playing trumpets before he spoke (at least not too often), or his disciples shouting to the crowd, “LISTEN! THIS IS IMPORTANT!” Jesus’ words should be powerful enough on their own that we shouldn’t need a colorful cue to tell us to pay attention.

And, through the Bible Experience, I discovered Jesus’ words carried plenty of oomph even when they weren’t red. In Mark’s sturdy prose, Jesus’ words sounded like poetry. In John’s beautiful, graceful book, Christ’s voice still carried above all.

It’s amazing what a few little changes in a familiar book will do.

I don’t think Bible readers in a funk, like me, need to turn to the Community Bible Experience. They might need to just plow through a new reading program or pick up a new translation. Cruising through a few books in The Message can be kinda revelatory, too. It doesn’t mean you have to punt your trusty King James or NIV. I’ve still got my regular Bible by the nightstand—and I’m reading it again, too, beginning again at the beginning as I’m prone to do. But I’m eager to read it again. I just needed something new to get me going again.

As long as we’re Christians, the Bible’s going to be with us always. We should turn to it day after day—for inspiration, for guidance, for comfort. Its words are constant, its message eternal. In the beginning was the Word, John says. And in the end, the Word will be with us still. It’s as important to us as—just as important, and more, as shoes are to most runners. They’re both with us step for step, mile after mile. They make, for many of us, the run possible.

But every now and then, it doesn’t hurt to get a new pair of shoes. It doesn’t hurt to look at the Bible in a new way, with fresh eyes. The experience can be rejuvenating, invigorating. Even beautiful.

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