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Weeds: The vessel’s wearing out

We spend our time between conception and death in these human bodies. There are days we leap and run and dance in them. Then there are days we are stiff and sore and just want to lie on the couch. If we are blessed or lucky or both, we will live with these bodies for some decades, eventually wearing them out.

The Bible refers to these as our earthen vessels. It is God’s plan for us. Paul writes in Corinthians, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not out of us.” It is a gift, the whole package: body, mind, and spirit, all to give glory to God.

Lately I’ve been having a small disagreement with my vessel. It doesn’t want to go along with what my brain is telling it.

I’ve been an on-and-off runner going back to school days. “Running” is generous. More like jogging. As I’ve gotten older and slower, I’ve taken to calling it “slogging.” Whatever, I try to go two or three miles.

I had to shut that down for a year with an injury and a surgery. This summer, I was able to start up again.

I had been walking and biking some, but even a slow run is more physically fatiguing. So, I started out doing one minute jogging and three minutes walking. Then two and two. Eventually a half mile run, half mile walk. My body went along with this regimen, tolerating the running, knowing a walk break was coming. Finally came the day I planned to do the full three miles. After a while, my body said, “Okay, time for walking.”

“Nope,” I replied, “Keep running.”

“What? No!” My body even tried to negotiate. “How about a deal? If we can walk a while, we’ll have a big bowl of Schwan’s butter brickle ice cream when we’re done!”

Eventually we fought our way through our dispute. My earthen vessel is still not entirely happy about this.

That got me thinking about things we do that aren’t necessarily easy. Life is filled with these. A large part of maturity is learning to complete them. Like a three-mile run. Sticking to tasks until they are completed is something we try to impart on our children. Stick-to-itiveness is a quality we want to pass on.

We hear, “If you love your job, you never have to work a day in your life.” Hogwash. What job doesn’t have tedious, laborious, and taxing parts to it? I love farming, and the harvest is the best time of year. But every fall, there get to be times when I’m exhausted and have to choose to get back on the tractor or climb up on the bin. I’m guessing your job has those moments. Where it would be easy to put away your tools or turn off the computer. But you don’t. And that’s how you get things done.

We might hear marriage is blissful if we only find the right person. I heard a speaker say once, “Finding someone is the easy part. Working through the days and years and decades of marriage is the difficult part.” As Pam and I cross the 40-year line, I think she would agree with that. There have been lots of days when we had to work hard at making this work. Perhaps it gets a little easier when the pressures of child-rearing have passed. But we still have our days.

Speaking of parenting, there is marathon, not a sprint. When you and your partner bring home that little bundle of personhood, you’ve signed on to 18 years of effort and commitment. Really more. From the 3 a.m. wakeup with a crying infant to the frustrations of a teenager fighting you every day, parenting is lots of work, to say the least.

Of course, it is in completing difficult and challenging tasks that there is satisfaction. The three-mile run, the harvest, the life-long marriage, raising a child: each have moments it would be temporarily relaxing to quit. There is a difference between relaxing and joy that comes from something well done. We will be judged in these lengthy arduous tasks, not the easy ones.

I think that is why I love a baseball season. Over 162 games and six months, the best players will have slumps, and anyone can get hot for a few days. Teams can have everything work and rattle off six wins in a week, or struggle with pitching, hitting, and defense and lose a bunch. The best teams will lose sixty and the worst teams will win sixty. Anything can happen on any day, but the full measure of the team is taken over those six months.

I love the season but am not a fan of the expanded playoffs. Ten teams now get to enter the October lottery. It used to be eight, before that four, and when I was a kid two. I get that it’s all about television and money. But why is it better to have your team eliminated in a few games in the playoffs, when any number of freaky things can happen, rather than that beautiful 162 game endurance run? It is a snapshot vs. a full-length film.

As a fan, you live and die game to game, ups, downs, and everything in between. Talk about a metaphor for life. It is not unlike marriage or parenting in that you’re never quite sure what’s going to happen that day. But at the end of it, you love your wife, your kid, or your team. You look forward the next game/day, open to whatever surprises come your way.

Speaking of marathons, of course the ultimate one is life itself. In Hebrews 10:36, we are told, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” When I get round the lake trail, near the end of three miles, I see my car and I know I will be resting soon. It’s a good feeling. Someday, we’ll get to the end of our life’s run. Hopefully we will see heaven and know we will be resting soon.

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