It’s Saturday morning, and I’m driving to a farm in northern Oregon to run 10.5 miles in Tough Mudder race/obstacle course. My three months of training have been revelatory in what they’ve helped me discover about my capabilities as the emanation of God. My theme all through has been this passage from the Miscellaneous Writings by women’s rights crusader, writer, publisher and healer Mary Baker Eddy: “The mounting sense gathers fresh forms and strange fire from the ashes of dissolving self, and drops the world.”
At the moment, though, I’m not feeling much of that “mounting sense.” I’m running the race alone; I haven’t exercised for two weeks because I’d been spending time with our new baby boy; and I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night. But now that I’m pulling into the race parking lot and catching a glimpse of the course, I know I’ve got a decision to make. Either I fully stand by the spiritual lessons I gained during my preparation, or I give in to the popular notion that proper sleep, exercise repetition, and the race course itself completely determine my capabilities and even my safety.
As I tape my shoes (don’t want them falling off in the mud!) and walk to the entry, I halfheartedly pray, bouncing back and forth between thoughts about God and thoughts about the possible physical extremes I’ll encounter. I hand my insurance and release forms to a race official. These forms are called a death waiver. And, in a flash, I see what it is I’m doing. I’m right there with the children of Israel, as Moses spoke to them: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life…”
I feel a conviction that I don’t need to buy into the possibility that death, pain, fear, or even apathy or discouragement can be the hallmarks of my life. I can choose life. That’s what “dropping the world” means for me today: dropping the notion that death and its counterparts of pain and fear are the side effects of living a bold life. In choosing life, I am letting divine Life show me how and who I am.
All my fear dissolves, and as I wait at the starting line, cheering with my fellow runners and patting nervous folks on the back, I am filled with gratitude for this opportunity to see how strong and beautiful divine Life is.
The obstacle course gives me one opportunity after another to glorify God and to devote my thought to Him. At one point, when I stumble down a steep hill and feel a sharp burst of pain in my ankle, I am filled with the knowledge that Life only includes good, which cannot be replaced by fear, injury, or damage. I leap back up and bound down the rest of the hill, heading into a cold, muddy tunnel. I can’t see the light at the end of tunnel, but I know it’s there—just like I know divine Life is continually expressed, and a tumble down a hill can’t interrupt that. When I make my way out of the tunnel, my ankle is completely free of pain and I’m able to run with someone else to help encourage him.
Later, climbing along an inclined set of slippery monkey bars, I can barely reach the next one and there are still more to go. Hanging over icy water, I see in a flash that here, too, I can choose Life. Choosing Life isn’t something I do once and then that’s that. I need to keep demonstrating my commitment. Whether or not I actually reach the next monkey bar is irrelevant, but I will not give up. No matter what the next second brings, I will choose nothing but Life in this moment. I reach, and I make it—scrambling along the rest of the obstacle to the end.
And then, before I know it, I’m done! I even feel disappointed that the race is over. I love my life and everything it includes, but the Tough Mudder taught me a lot about boldness, strength, and my capabilities. I don’t want to lose any of this newfound freshness. But in that moment, I get a gentle nudge—a reminder of the conclusion to the theme for my whole preparation: “The mounting sense…drops the world.” I see that it’s not God’s decree that some of His good can only be experienced while running through mud, and other good is relegated to other parts of life. The world says that, sure, but my awareness of who I am has risen higher than it was before, and I don’t need to buy into that worldly concept of conditional, or otherwise limited, good. I can choose Life—ALL of Life—every second.
Next year’s run will be awesome—I can’t wait. But the real victory was getting to discover the immediacy of Life—for me, and everyone. Moment by moment, and in every endeavor, we can always choose to drop the world and let our sense of life be defined by God.