I started running cross country in the sixth grade; Standing at four feet tall and weighing in at no more than eighty pounds, it just made sense. I’ve been running for about twelve years – though I would now call myself more of a “girl who occasionally jogs for fun” than a “runner” – and I put quite the mileage on my shoes, so I went to a running store a few weeks ago to grab a new pair. I knew exactly what I wanted and expected to be in and out, but due to my passivity and the store associate’s forwardness in equal parts, my quick try-on somehow turned into an extensive gait analysis. Before I know it he’s filming me running across the store and I’m stepping on the arch analysis machine and the whole nine yards. I’m also subtly rolling my eyes because, dude, I’m not new to this thing.
When the assessment was done, he broke it down, talking through my form and what shoes might work best based on my high arch. I nodded along, intending to walk out with the pair I came for and move on with my life, but then he dropped the news about my foot placement: Apparently I’m a heel striker – which can place a strain on several areas of the body, including the lower back. I’ve suffered from lower back pain for years, so once that truth hit, I took his word a bit more seriously. I bought the shoes and arch supports he recommended and took off on a mid-foot landing run, during which I literally cut a MINUTE from my typical 5k time.
It’s incredible how much pain we can unknowingly put ourselves through.
Have I ever really known what is for my good? I’m definitely good at convincing myself that I do, prone to run toward my idea of it and then whine when it is reshaped, withheld, or stripped away.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Oh fear the LORD, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. – Psalm 34:9-10
When our immediate circumstances don’t match up with our narrow perception of what it means to “lack no good thing”, we can dangerously assume that the promise must not be legitimate. The same conclusion might also be reached from Romans 8:28, which declares that in all things “God works for the good of those who love him”. In both cases, the problem is not with the ability of the promise of good to hold itself up but with our quickness to water it down to our supposed entitlements.
David wrote this Psalm of gratitude specifically in response to his deliverance from a dangerous circumstance, yet his reality is the same as ours today; his greatest good is God himself. We’re not guaranteed financial security, physical and mental health, a dream career, a spouse and children, or any earthly blessing. True well-being is to know God, and his offer of salvation through his Son reveals that everything in between our first and last breath is grace. How could we claim that he owes us anything?
We’re the ones subjecting ourselves to pain by landing on our heels – choosing patterns of sin and untruth – then wondering why misery follows.
I recently read a book called “You’re Not Enough and That’s Okay”. The title says it all, but the book is grounded in the revolutionary premise that low self-esteem is not our chief problem, but sin, and that therefore self-love is not our final answer, but Jesus. Stuckey asks the question, “How in the world could it be that self-love is the answer to our problems when there’s no evidence whatsoever that we’ve ever stopped loving ourselves?” YIKES. I’m actually amazing at self-love because whether I’m leaning toward self-worship or self-destruction, I’m still thinking of myself first.
We could never love ourselves into true joy and satisfaction because “we cannot be both the problem and the solution.”
Yet the world says otherwise, and its lies are often wrapped up so nicely.
The American Humanist Association defines secular humanism as “a progressive philosophy of life that, without theism and other supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.”
If you’ve ever drank a cup of Yogi tea, you’ve probably noticed the little “affirmational” messages attached to the end of the tea bag. They say things like “The beauty in you is in your spirit” or “Your word is your greatest power” or “Your life is based on the capacity of energy in you not outside of you”.
Ah, nothing like getting your ego pumped up with falsities while sipping on hot tea. Someone doesn’t need to have subscribed to the AHA newsletter to be swayed by messages like this; they’re written all over American culture. There are plenty of ideologies worth challenging – and mediums through which they creep in beyond tea – but I single out secular humanism because I think it’s one of the most pervasive and dangerous out there.
At the surface, I can understand the appeal of a framework that welcomes all, even giving the nonreligious a place to fall. However, it’s worth noting that such a “non-biased” worldview is impossible because every worldview is ultimately making a claim about something. Secular humanism automatically dismisses a dozen other worldviews at once by denying any level of deism, yet claims that Christianity is too narrow.
Bias is unavoidable, so why not stake our claim on something objectively true? An ethic that constantly shifts to match the cultural climate sounds more terrifying than freeing.
If I get to choose to continually adjust my values based on a moving target or to tether myself to the infalliable, unchanging word of God, I will choose the latter every time. His word says what it says and when it makes me uncomfortable or calls me to live differently, it’s not on the table for reformulation. A perfect authority offers much greater peace than “my own truth”, which won’t lead to anything of substance. I need to rely on something outside of myself, and I don’t need it to tell me that I can hustle or meditate or love myself into fulfillment. Following Christ removes the pressure, because I am not even capable of measuring up and that’s the idea.
Submitting to God’s authority by no means colors the answers to life’s questions in black and white, but where we turn in the nuance is critical. Scripture must always be the first place we land, and the spirit brings discernment from there (1 Corinthians 2:10-16). Though sound doctrine is important, we should be careful not to expend all our energy obsessively lining up every single theological duck and aggressively policing our social circles to ensure doctrinal perfection – I’ve seen theology become a ferocious idol. However, we should be aware of any message sneaking in to challenge the core Christian truth of Jesus incarnated, crucified, and risen. The gospel leaves no room for secular humanism and the likes.
The narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14) is freedom.
To circle back around, something noteworthy about my running form is that no one told me it was incorrect. The body of Christ speaks the truth in love so that its members are not tossed into the waves of deception (Ephesians 4:11-16), so we need the delicate balance of grace and truth now more than ever.
It would be ignorant to assert that altruism is unique to Christianity, but good apart from God is only half-good at best, because even our righteousness is as “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). We are DEAD in our sin. The gospel is that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23-25) but that He sent his son to die in our place to save us. Jesus died on the cross and therefore we refuse to die on the hill of autonomy. Instead, we take up our crosses and die to self over and over again.
Walk by the spirit and land lightly. This is real well-being, real hope, and real peace.