In the past three weeks, I’ve been training to participate in the 30th Anniversary Marine Corp Marathon. I identified a novice runner training schedule and have been diligent in forging ahead despite not having a partner or team to train with me. It isn’t my first time attempting this race. My first attempt was fifteen (15) years ago, in 1999, while still living at home in Maryland. I wholeheartedly enjoyed the process of training. During that experience, I had the aid of some seasoned runners and the joy of sharing the long runs with other novice runners. It was an amazing six month journey. Two weeks before race day, I moved to the mid-west and bronchitis set into my chest. I returned home for the race, only to struggle for my life—or so it seemed—the first six miles. I prayed to make it to the half-way mark, and God graciously allowed it. For months, I was greatly disappointed that I wasn’t able to complete the marathon. Then, in the midst of my pity party, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the training marathon we ran weeks prior to the actual race—I still have my medal from it! That reminder served to elevate my spirits and made me forever mindful of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life—to bring truth and freedom from bondage. Still, I’ve held on to this idea that I needed—wanted—to cross the official finish line of this 26.2 mile race.
Fast forward to 2015: Prior to adhering to the training schedule, I began power walking shortly after learning I had, once again, been chosen to run with the Marines. Unfortunately, I began exercising in over-worn shoes which were not proper for training. As a result, I developed plantar fasciitis in my right heel. Although there are fifteen (15) weeks before the marathon, I find myself wondering if this is an indication I should discontinue my training altogether. I’m grateful for the opportunity to attempt the race again; however, running a marathon was never on my “bucket list.” I initially became interested because I just wanted to add to my power walking routine. I had prayed to “up my game,” when I saw the advertisement for the training program on a Metro bus I rode to work. I’m grateful for the discipline I developed and the opportunity to increase my physical activity. As I’ve been pondering what to do, I heard in my spirit, “stirred, not shaken.”
The reverse (shaken, not stirred) became a well-quoted line from the James Bond movies. In the films, the leading man is referring to how he would like his martini mixed. As I considered what I heard, I found myself wondering about the origin of the famous quote and the difference between the two words. That consideration led me to search the Internet for quick information. I learned the phrase first appeared in a 1956 novel; interestingly enough the line is spoken as I heard in my spirit in the 1967 Bond film, “You Only Live Twice (imagine that!).” Equally interesting was learning that shaking the martini introduced air bubbles and leaves the final product cloudy in appearance. In contrast, to stir the ingredients leaves it clear and possibly less diluted. Okay, so this blog, nor this post, is about the merits of mixing alcoholic beverages; but, there is a point in sharing this information. Follow me, I’m going somewhere…
After reviewing the history of the phrase, I took a look at the definition of the words stir and shake. According to Merriam-Webster, to stir is to mix by making circular movements…with a spoon or similar object; to move or cause to move after being still; to be active or busy; as well as, to bring into notice, rouse to activity, and to call forth. Synonyms are: agitate, evoke, provoke. As for the second word of focus, to shake is to move something violently; to move irregularly; to experience a state of instability. Its synonyms are: weaken, upset, agitate.
As I thought on these definitions and what I sensed as the phrase repeated in my mind, I found myself marveling over the revelation: As a Christian, we are to be stirred to action, not shaken to pieces. No matter what life brings our way, we must be agents of change and not cower in the face of difficulty, or even persecution. The final analysis regarding the marathon is this: Whether I run or not is not the issue; no, the issue is how I approach every aspect of the journey. Will I be thrown, or shaken, because an injury has put me on the sidelines? Or, will I trust that rest and stretching will restore the strength of my foot and allow me to participate on race day. Regardless of the impact of the injury, will I still proclaim the joy of the Lord and give God glory no matter what the final outcome? I choose the latter; I choose to glorify God whether pain-free or adjusting to a weakened body part.
To that end, I searched the scriptures for deeper understanding. My search led me first to Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church. In 2 Corinthians 4:8-10, Paul wrote, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed—always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” In other words, we are stirred, not shaken!
Then, I thought on another of Paul’s letters to an early group of Christians. It was his letter to the Philippian church that contains an often quoted passage on contentment. Philippians 4:11-13 states, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is my conclusion. Whatever presents itself, I am reminded that I have been equipped to endure any circumstance. Because of Christ, I will be moved to positive action which leads to a life which glorifies God. I will not become unstable in my thinking or deeds. I have settled my mind and having done all, I will continue to stand (see Eph 6:10-12) and trust in my Creator to sustain me. Even if the ground beneath me should become unstable, my heart will maintain its resolve.
Once again, it is a letter penned by the Apostle Paul that brings this point home. In his letter to the church at Rome, Paul writes: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:35-39).” In contrast to the enemy’s determination to take us off focus, the Holy Spirit keeps us mindful–through the truth of God’s word–to maintain our confidence in God. Speak what we are, and not what we’re not. We are to be clear, not cloudy. We are to rally, not scatter. We are to be stirred, not shaken! –WordsInPrint by Suni