The sun shone brightly as I ambled past the fellow draped on the park bench, legs extended lazily, head resting against the back of the bench. His sleeping face radiated contentment.
But as I passed carefully in front of him, avoiding those long legs, I glimpsed something like a ghost just behind him! This shadow looked like a marathon runner, huffing and striving for victory. I stopped and turned to look closely, but the ghost had disappeared.
“Hmmm …” I mused and I turned to continue my walk, when suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I glimpsed another ghost just behind the resting fellow’s head. This one had a look of despair and he wept as he gazed towards where the athletic ghost had disappeared.
I started, and turned to look, but no, he had vaporized into the air. Who was this fellow, sleeping so happily on the bench? As I scrutinized his features, I had the biggest surprise of all—he looked like … like … me!!!
Now, I’m not going to get into the question of which “me” he looked like. I’ve looked a lot of different ways in my life. A friend recently sent me a picture of my family, back when I was in my early thirties. There I was, black hair, mustache curled down at the edges of my mouth, looking a bit like the Frito Bandito.
These days I look in the mirror and my granddad stares back at me (a young, dynamic version of granddad, not the old wrinkled one). At times I’ve been also been fatter or skinnier, hairier or more athletic, but it’s not really important which version of me I saw on the bench; it was just me, okay?
As I considered this contented figure, snoozing happily in the early-afternoon sunshine, the ghosts appeared again—one running, the other crying.
… And I realized that it was a sort of parable of my life.
Like the resting fellow, I’m happy at my place in the Lord Jesus. My sins are forgiven and I’ve been justified; Jesus has made me a part of His Father’s family and my future destiny couldn’t be brighter—eternity in a heaven created by God for those who love Him.
He’s with me each step of my life and I rejoice in such a wonderful Lord and Savior. No wonder the sprawled-out figure looked so happy; he had it made.
But the striving, marathon-running ghost was just as real. I’m happy in Him but I’m not settled because there’s so much to do, so many people who need to know Him, so many who love Him who need to be strengthened and affirmed. And I’ve got so many ideas of things I want to do. So I run, fight, cry, and struggle, all because I want to win and hear him say to me, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”
Honestly, though, that weeping ghost haunts me. I’m far from accomplishing all I want to. And so often I goof up, or a lack of discipline blows all my good intentions for that day to smithereens, or I just feel worthless for a period, and when it’s like that, the runner is not very effective.
Truth is, I’m all this. I’m resting in the Lord, running and working for Him, while at the same time I feel so short of what I want to be. What to do?
Keep running. Keep working. Keep resting. And when the tears come, repent, shake it off, look to the Lord and get going and get resting in Him again. Even trust Him to overcome our weaknesses.
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made,” an old runner named Paul observes. “But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.” (Phil. 3:12-14, The Message)
As you learn to run and rest in faith in the Lord, the weeping ghost fades more and more, and the running ghost presses closer to the finish line.