Yesterday (10th April 2015) the Wall Street Journal reported a new trend in North American distance running.
No longer satisfied with boring their friends with tales of blisters and missed personal bests, its now all about the finisher's medal. Not only do competitors receive medals for completing the medal or half marathon, but they can now receive "frequent runner" medals for completing multiple races that belong to a series. One runner interviewed spoke of the 20 medals she had collected this season along. Runner's Magazines have "Top 10 races" tables based on the size and style of medal that finishers receive.
But this is America - of course there is more! Several companies will sell you custom built medal display stands (emblazoned with slogans like "Pain is the pathway to success") so you can discreetly brag when you friends come over.
That's all great - but my favourite was the "virtual race" medal. Capitalising on the modern desire to do-it-all-my-way-when-it-suits-me-but-I-still-want-everyone-to-know-about-it, entrepreneurial startups will now allow you (for around $30) to register for a "virtual race", in which as you run on your treadmill, around the block, or even just walk around your house, you can rack up the miles you need to complete you own personal marathon. When you cross your personal "finish line", our friendly .com startup will send you a medal, and no doubt an invitation to run another "race" (and pay another $30.)
I'm going to join out on a grumpy middle-aged man limb here, and I speak as someone who has run 20-odd marathon, but doesn't that should just sound a bit ridiculous and self-centred? It almost seems as if the key element in training for and running a marathon - that is, discipline, has been sacrificed at the altar of "everything is about me and my convenience."
I was thinking about this in terms of our life as Christians.
As Christians, we are disciples of Christ. Not consumers, not users, friends or colleagues. So often Jesus and the apostles use the language of discipleship, being a soldier, struggling, taking up your cross, to describe the christian life. They don't use the language of convenience, comfort or self-importance.
There is no doubt that in many aspects of life, from running to shopping to career, we are being encouraged to be self centred and to make things are "time convenient" as possible.
A great temptation is that we carry this attitude over into our Christian life, but we need to work against that, and rather, live as disciplined, hard working disciples of Christ.