I pulled on my socks (gray Thorlo Experias), I tied my shoes (blue Saucony Guide 9s), and then I sat down to a quick bowl of cereal (Honey Nut Medley Crunch).
On the table in front of me, I opened my Bible (Holman Christian Standard Study Bible) to the very beginning — Genesis, chapters one through three — and I read the story of God’s creation of the world, bringing clarity and order to chaos, followed all-too-quickly by the story of Mankind’s undoing of that created order, reintroducing chaos and confusion, ultimately leading to the loss of paradise.
Then I went out for a three-mile run in the tropical heat and humidity.
As I ran, I started thinking about the ways that Genesis 1-3 point to the Gospel. The story of our ancient ancestors calls all of us out for our stubborn, independent streaks. Our self-centered choices illuminate the ills of insecurity and identity that need to be redeemed and restored. The concessions of chapter 3 make it evident how far we’ve strayed from God’s original design: covering our nakedness with animal skins, preying upon other sentient creatures for our sustenance, subjecting ourselves to hard labor, missing out on the opportunity to walk daily with God…
Light bulbs flashed in my consciousness as I ran, illuminating all the connective tissue in the Bible, from the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden to the Trees of Life prophesied in the New Jerusalem, from Genesis to Revelation, but then I also realized that I was dwelling an awful lot on the recognition of- and repentance from sin in my understanding of the Gospel. Not so much on the hope, glory, and beauty of the rescue from that sin, which God has enacted for us.
Such a typical pattern for me. When I try to impress upon others the power of the Gospel, I often come across as overly sober, serious, and heavy. The joy of salvation doesn’t always carry as well as the sorrow of sin. Today’s run was not the first time I’ve realized a need for growth in that area. What occurred to me on the run, however, was the way that everything I do in life — either positive or negative — can be an opportunity for Gospel proclamation.
If I experience some element of “success” or “heroism” — showing God’s love in some meaningful or practical way, speaking an especially-insightful truth in an opportune moment, making something look easy for me even if it may be challenging for others — then these are opportunities to make much of God’s glory. His Spirit gives life and power to my body and soul, which would otherwise be dead and weak.
If, however, I experience some element of “failure” or “villany” — messing up in some subtle or spectacular way, perpetuating lies, acting from insecurity, reverting to the same sins again and again and again well after I “should” be past them — then these are opportunities to make much of God’s grace. I may well be a wretch, in my natural state, but God’s amazing grace has saved me! And is still saving me, day-by-day!
Glory, Grace… Glory, Grace… Glory, Grace…
Like the cadence of a run beside the river, along the Main Street bicycle paths, around the corner and onto the sidewalk — Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right — God’s Glory and Grace carry me through the life I lead here on earth. All of it goes back to His work in my life! He propels me forward, much like walking and running are really just an elaborate system of systematically losing- and regaining one’s balance.
Something about this feels revolutionary to me — that even the “downer” parts of the Gospel can be reclaimed as avenues for celebrating God’s grace, goodness, and sufficiency. Sometimes, I don’t have to mention my guilt, impurity, and inadequacy. Sometimes I do. But either way, there is much cause for celebration! God is so good. The Gospel is such Good News. We just have to keep running in it.