I‘m not a natural athlete. I can run, but it is hard work and it is not pretty to watch.
Out for an early morning run today I met several dog-walkers along my route. Some of the dogs were running too. It was amazing to see how fast they can run.
It doesn’t look like it is hard work, or an effort for them. It looks more like a joyous expression of their nature – the Franciscan in me would say that it was a physical hymn to their Creator.
As I contemplated this it struck me that in nature animals get good at the things that keep them alive. Dogs can run because this was essential to their ability to catch food, to survive.
Of course man has interfered with this ability somewhat. We now have dogs that have been bred to have certain bizarre physical characteristics. There are dogs with short legs which are able to go down rabbit holes and badger setts. I saw a corgi the other day – a dog with 2 inch legs. A dog for whom an inch of snow is a deeply unpleasant experience – especially for male corgis – no wonder they tend to be bad tempered, I think I would be too.
But dogs in the wild can run and run fast – for that is what enables them to survive.
Meditating in this direction I was suddenly struck by an insight into Psalm 42:1
As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
The reason the deer pants is because it has just been running for its life. Its ability to run is the only thing that keeps it alive. At the limit of exhaustion and endurance it seeks the water it needs to enable it to continue, to survive.
It is only when we understand the nature of our spiritual life in this way, that we will really seek God with the kind of earnestness that is appropriate, as something vital in our life. Only then will we understand our relationship with God for what it truly it – a survival issue.