Running… for What? – #SoCS

The Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS) is “run.” Use it as a noun, a verb, use it any way you’d like. Enjoy!


This week, I went for a run. Hell, I’ve been running for years, I suppose. But this week, I really ran. I pushed my limits. I got to that spot where everything in your lungs and head agreed that it was time to stop, but some other voice inside (or perhaps outside?) somehow convinced me to defy biology and psychology and bring it up another level and continue forward. With speed. With strength. With conviction.

The run can have you feeling “run down”. I suspect my answer to the question, “How are you feeling?” over the last 4 years (10 years, 20 years, 40 years…) is more likely than not to have been “tired”. My answer this morning would be no different.

But there is a difference.

This week I ran my race on my course, wearing comfortable shoes I picked out myself. Sound a little selfish? It is. And you know what? That’s OK. You’ll get over it – and I already have.

In one of the earlier versions of myself (Ben 4.0, if you’re keeping track), I wrote music for church worship. I recently came upon one of the last written before upgrading to Ben 5.0. It’s called “Run To Win the Crown”. It’s based on a passage written by Paul in 1 Corinthians 9, and it’s familiar to most of us who were raised as “Bible-Believing Christians”:

24 Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. 25 Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. 26 So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; 27 but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Paul. Oh, dear Paul. This is, unfortunately REALLY BAD IMAGERY for some of us.

BENJAMIN! THIS IS SCRIPTURE!

Yeah, it is, and I will repeat, this is REALLY BAD IMAGERY for some of us.

Here are the words and phrases that jumped out to a self-loathing perfectionist (well, this one, anyway):

  • compete
  • only one receives the prize
  • run in such a way
  • win it
  • do not run aimlessly
  • punish
  • enslave
  • I myself should not be disqualified

I’m sorry – in this insecure head, that was some terrifyingly motivational shit.

But you really shouldn’t run out of fear. Unless, of course, you’re being chased by a bear. Fear allowed.

AND THEN I WROTE A SONG ABOUT IT.

I don’t know. You explain it to me.

Long story short – I ran like hell. Ran FROM hell, quite literally, I suppose. To win the prize. Some prize. A prize. ANY prize. An imperishable one, says Paul. Depending on your particular church flavor, that imperishable prize may not be the same as someone else’s imperishable prize. And therein lies the problem. MY problem anyway. I really didn’t know what I was running for. But man, did I run. And most people thought I was a pretty good runner. I was probably on track to win SOMEONE’S definition of the “imperishable”. But I honestly didn’t know what my own definition of The Prize was.

And that, my friend, made me tired. It makes me tired thinking of it.

There are a lot of different things throughout my life that I’ve run FOR and FROM.

All well-intentioned.

Many badly motivated.

And, I’m sorry, Paul (and the people who interpreted him to me) didn’t help things.

The good news is, over the years I’ve stopped a lot of running. I’ve redefined The Prize. I’ve looked around me at my fellow “contestants” and realized, “Ummmm, No. I don’t HAVE to BEAT these people. We can ALL finish. We can ALL win.” And don’t get me wrong, I think that message IS in the Bible (I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, read some Jesus. Matthew 5-7 is a great place to start).

Man, Stream of Consciousness can be BRUTAL. This is not where I planned to go at all.

Which is sort of the whole point of what I’ve written. Run, walk, crawl, and ALWAYS be open to go someplace you didn’t plan. You might have been given a faulty map at the start.

I want to finish by turning back to my song. Not all of Paul is dangerous competitive imagery for the perfectionist. A portion of my song used another Pauline passage from the letter to the Philippians (totally different church, totally different audience, totally different situation. I don’t have time to get into it here, but THIS is why you don’t read a verse (or even a book) of the Bible in a vacuum.

12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you. 16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

WOAH. Very different Paul. Very different imagery. Much less competitive. Much less self-abusive. Much more nuanced understanding of “the prize”. It still has some danger zones for the perfectionist:

  • I press on
  • straining
  • I press on

BUT, look at all of the self-deprecating, fault-admitting, permission giving language:

  • Not that I have already attained
  • Christ Jesus has made me his own
  • Beloved
  • I do not consider that I have made it my own
  • Be of the same mind
  • If you think differently … God will reveal
  • hold fast to what we have attained

I feel a lot less like punching THIS Paul. Which, I think you’ll agree, is probably a good thing for both of us.

Anyway – My song. I used both scripture verses (plus some more), and I also used imagery of my own that I think was already Ben 5.0 coming to the rescue…

We run the race that’s laid before us
We press on to claim the prize
Cast aside what trips and hinders
(Oh yeah, this is from Hebrews. Not Paul. Probably.)
And forget what lies behind
Side by side, we lift each other up
whenever one falls down
(that’s not in Paul’s race imagery. It’s in mine. It IS in Jesus’)
Take hold of Him whose taken hold
And run to win the Crown
(yeah, I don’t define the “crown” here either – my bad)

Press on. We press on
Before this cloud of witnesses
(more from Hebrews)
Even when our strength is gone
Press on. We press on
It’s the One who’s run before us that our eyes are fixed upon
(ahhhh, here’s Ben 5.0 waking up)

We run the race that’s laid before us
We press on to claim the prize
Cast aside what trips and hinders
And forget what lies behind
Side by side, we lift each other up
whenever one falls down
Take hold of Him whose taken hold
And run to win the Crown

Words and Music by Ben Kohns, circa 2007

I’m honestly not sure what point I’m trying to make here. Maybe I’m not. Not trying. Not making a point. And I guess the point I started with is THAT’S OK. I’M OK WITH THAT. The Ben that wrote the song would not have been OK with that.

I am JUST old enough to remember the release of the book, “I’m OK, You’re OK”, and I’m also aware of the storm that this “psychobabble self-help” book caused in the conservative church. You might as well have been looking at porn.

The very IDEA that everyone could be “OK” was (and still is, to many) SCANDALOUS and ran counter to the gospel.

But is it? Does it?

I believe it’s time to reexamine “the prize” and what exactly we are running for. And yeah, I think we can all win.

“Run to Win the Crown” – Ben Kohns, circa 2007

#SoCS comes from the website of Linda G. Hill.

Here are the rules:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing (typos can be fixed), and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

5 Comments

  1. Paul said a lot of things that bother me, too. But he checks and balances himself as well. And, like Isaiah, he felt himself to be wretched and “chief of sinners”, so he was not about triumphalism all the time. Your post is interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

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