Words Long Ago

Isn’t it amazing how words spoken long ago can still be life-altering? In Deena Kastor’s inspiring new book, Let Your Mind Run, she shares how one simple phrase by her new coach triggered a mindset and habits that transformed her running career and continues to affect every aspect of her life.

“Bring a good attitude,” Coach Joe Vigil said to Deena in their first meeting and repeated often. Whether running against stiff headwinds at altitude in Colorado or against fellow Olympians in sweltering Athens, she shares how being mindful to bring a good attitude each step of the way eventually brought not only victory but also freedom and joy.

I recall, too, one New England autumn afternoon many years ago. A seminary student at the time, I hastily read a theological essay in the school library and hurried home. I needed to lug two cords of firewood before dark from the driveway to the deck and stack each log. My hands bled as I clutched the splintered wood, my pace feverish, but my thoughts soared beyond my work.

The opening paragraph of the essay I had just rushed through had unexpectedly prompted me to reconsider my relationship with God.

In “The Theologian’s Craft,” my professor David Wells observed,

[Our] understanding of God, of ourselves, of the world—comes so slowly, so painfully slowly, that [life’s] summer passes and the winter arrives long before this fruit is ripe to be picked. Or so it seems. … God, however, … is not a quantity that can be “mastered” even though he can be known; and though he has revealed himself with clarity, the depth of our understanding of him is measured, not by the speed with which theological knowledge is processed, but by the quality of our determination to own his ownership of us through Christ in thought, word, and deed.

I kept mulling over that last line: “to own his ownership of us through Christ in thought, word, and deed.” As a child I had memorized “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Yet somehow, I had never really considered what it meant to belong to God, to be a part of his covenant family. In the years since, that line still informs my prayers, buoys my hopes, and encourages me to ask, “Am I growing in my love and knowledge of God as his beloved child?”

The ancient words of Scripture remind us, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:9-10).

If you are a child of God, you are a “special possession” and belong to a “holy nation.” What a life-altering promise!

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