Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.– Matthew 6:28-29
Last April, when we were less than a month into the pandemic, Tyler Betustak (VU ‘20) offered a reflection on what he’d learned as a long distance runner and how he’d learned to apply it to daily life as a way of staying healthy and hopeful in times of great stress, deprivation, and uncertainty.
He said, “…if you start to run long distances … you’ll find that once you think about the ending once you stop thinking about where you are right now and start thinking about that end goal you’re essentially done …the only thing that you can fathom is the end and it makes every mile that much more painful … if you don’t take the time to pay attention to the things happening around you … and really pick out the good things instead of thinking so far down the road instead of thinking about the finish line, to take a second to look around and enjoy these things that God has provided for us was a lesson that I learned as I started to to run.”
Tyler shared that he learned to apply that running lesson to his daily life through the experience of being a bone marrow donor. I encourage you to watch the video of his reflection here.
I’m not a runner so I’d not heard this bit of wisdom before and it struck me as odd considering that so-called successful people tell us to do things like “begin with the end in mind.” Goal setting seems to be a given. Tyler’s notion that we would do better to take our mind off the goal and place it elsewhere struck me as curious. So curious that I kept thinking about it.
Now we’re seven months into this thing and just over halfway through a break-less semester and the question of ends looms large in our minds. What’s more, many of us are in uncomfortable places, conversations about tightened budgets and program discontinuation, conversations about experiences of racism and a political season that is challenging our vocabulary of superlatives.
We’ll be fine when it’s all over. This is what we tell ourselves.
I’m coming around to Tyler’s way of thinking.
Typically, when I read Jesus’ words about lilies, I hear it as a teaching about priorities. These days, I’m also hearing them as guidance on attention, not just attention to the important and eternal things, like the reign of God in our lives, but attention to the small and beautiful things. Consider the lilies and the turning leaves and the music and the art and a friend’s kind gaze.
This is not a strategy of avoidance. We’re not simply sticking our heads in the sand. Instead, we are attending to all that is going on in our lives, both the stress-inducing and the wonderful. It’s about having all of the information and it’s about pacing ourselves for what must be done.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
Oct. 14, 2020
Photo credit: Valparaiso University