“Run, Forest, Run!” is certainly a lot easier to shout than “Run, Pheidippides, Run!” Before Forrest Gump took the reins as the most celebrated long distance runner in the world, the crown belonged to the Greek warrior Pheidippides. He was chosen to run approximately 25 miles and tell the Athenians not to burn their city since they had nikē, (victory) and defeated the Persians at the Battle of Marathon. Young Pheidippides shared the news and uttered his famous word with his last breath, dying immediately, and crushing claims of any royalties from a future, famous shoe company. Since the first person to complete the marathon died a hero, thousands of others illogically have opted to follow in his first steps each year, erasing any doubt that runners are slightly, as the Irish would say, cracked.
Many people of faith could be similarly ridiculed for their belief in a God that they cannot see and for following a God that died at the end of his journey. The fleeting moments of doubt may seem to crush our spirits or lead us to disappointment or even despair. Despite the outward lunacy of being a “fool for Christ”, nikē has been promised and was achieved. The journey had purpose. Thomas Merton, in the prayer below, captures the challenge of the uncertainly that many Christians feel. Faith is trusting God not only in the finish but in the journey.
My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.