On Sunday, at about the 15km mark of the Fremantle Half Marathon, I started listening to myself. The conversation went a little like this.
You’re not going to make it this time Steve.
This is one that you won’t finish
That looks like a good spot to ease up.
You can always say that your achilles tightened up too much.
As humans the person who we listen to day in day out is not our mother, our spouse or the person on the TV. It is ourselves. We have a conversation going on inside our heads almost all of the time. If it were audible the noise in our suburbs would deafen us.
Thankfully at about the 16km I stopped listening to myself. Instead I started talking to myself. That conversation went a little like this:
Don’t even think about stopping, you’ve trained harder for this than the last one.
You’ve been doing well over this distance every Saturday, 21 is nothing.
Just keep going, you may not PB, but Jill is waiting and watching out for you at the finish line.
Simon’s been training you to do this for weeks now, so DO it!
Now while that all sounds like a cliche, ripped straight from the pages of any running magazine or second-rate sports novel, the reality is that the difference between listening to yourself and talking to yourself is all the difference in the world. And it is a difference that is, at heart, theological.
Paul Tripp talks about how we are in an unending conversation with ourselves. The most influential person in my life is me! I speak to me more than anyone else does, and if you have ever done any distance running you will be well aware how much you actually say inside that head of yours as you trudge the kilometres on a cold and frosty morning.
Tripp cites Psalm 27 as a great example of the Psalmist ensuring that he is not simply listening to himself, and thereby succumbing to his fears, but talking to himself, and reminding his own heart of the great truths about God. Sometimes the conversation inside us gets so loud that it takes something special to over-ride it. Look at this example:
You have said Seek my face.
My heart says to you:
Your face, Lord do I seek.
In the midst of a situation where the Psalmist is struggling with external enemies that may push him to listen to his fears, he recalls God’s words to seek him, and his heart then starts to speak truth to himself. He over-rides the fearful conversation by deliberately speaking truths within his heart that counter his fears.
I am sure you can imagine situations far more disheartening than an inability to finish a half-marathon, but the issue is the same: The continual conversation has to be countered with speaking truth to yourself, and the Psalms give us great insights as to how to proceed with this. It should be no surprise that the God who speaks creation into existence, and who, in the person of Jesus, comes as the Word, would provide us with language as the great barrier against our fears, misgivings and waywardness.
Oh, and by the way, PB-ed with a 1:31:48 and the lovely Jill cheering me on at the finish (and hasn’t stopped talking about himself since… over-it Ed).