If you’re like me, the first thing you thought of when you saw this image was some war situation in a third-world country with three men being chased during some kind of conflict. As it turns out, it is a photograph of a scene from the 1896 Olympic Marathon, three athletes running for a prize. The looks on their faces betray a certain apprehension about their fate. Their expressions are what gives the photograph that certain air of fear. I am no stranger to fear or trying to get away from the onslaught. I spent a great deal of my childhood in anticipation of some kind of abuse about to happen. It did, regularly.
When I was about nine years old, I think, I had a dream. I was in my bedroom on my bed in the corner farthest from the door. Up above the door, where two walls and the ceiling met, I sensed a malevolent presence. It was daylight, so the malevolent presence wasn’t hidden in a shadow. It was invisible, but I knew it was there. It began to expand. Still invisible, I felt the suffocating presence of its hatred and malice. It meant to kill me.
I pulled the covers up around me, but I didn’t dare hide my head. Even though I couldn’t see it, I knew it existed and was waiting for me to turn away or cover my face to pounce. I stared into the void, gasping for whatever air it hadn’t already consumed.
To this day, I’m not sure if I was asleep. Frightening daydream or horrible nightmare, it was a reflection of the life I was living at that time. When I finally wrestled myself to reality and the creature dissipated, I heard down the hall the voice of someone every bit as terrifying to me as the entity in my dream.
It was only a matter of time before I could yet again expect to be slugged, burned with a cigarette, sexually molested, or emotionally terrorized. I believed that if he could have gotten away with it, he wanted to kill me as much as the formless terror of my dream.
Like the dream, the live monster in my life disappeared eventually, but not before he had created in me what seemed like a permanent dread that the next act of violence was just around the corner. I was always running or hiding from something. If there was a sudden noise, I jumped. If I was walking alone, it felt like I was being followed.
Through faith, prayer, and effort, I was able to change my life from running from something to running for something. One important part of that was to work hard to not be afraid. Heavenly Father helped me with that.
When I started going to church again after an adolescence spent in worldliness and sin, I got right in step with the cultural notion prevailing at the time of trying hard to look like I was already pretty much perfect. I’m not sure the culture has changed much. I think it has.
When I was younger, I heard more about striving to be perfect than I heard about how we are all at different places along the course of life. I heard a lot of sermons about the devastating effects of just one sin as if the person delivering the sermon had already attained to perfection and was trying to show the rest of us what it was like to be nearly there.
The problem with internalizing that point of view was that I knew inside of me that my place in the race to perfection was not even within sight of the finish line. I had repented of a great many things, but there were so many other things yet to be repented of. Many times, I just wanted to sit down and give up.
For me, running in a race is purely allegorical. I don’t have the joints for running. If I were a real foot-racer, I imagine it would be pretty easy to give up if you spent all of your time comparing yourself to the runners who seemed to be passing you. Yet, this is what I did.
As I’ve been running the race of life much longer now, I’m starting to learn something about it. I’m learning that I’m not supposed to concern myself with how others are running, unless it is to support them. I’m not supposed to compete with them.
When I stopped running from fear and started running for eternal life, I came to the best realization of all. I am not running from what is behind me. I’m running for what lies ahead. I’m not being apprehended. I’m apprehending eternal happiness. I like my new version of”apprehension” so much better.
The apostle Paul said it best:
If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:11-14).
The word “apprehended” in these verses is from the Greek “Katalambano”, meaning, among other things, “to lay hold of (Strong’s number 2638).” It could mean physically or mentally take hold of something, or to pursue it.
What God calls up on us to do is to pursue eternal life as if we are in a race for ourselves. What Paul describes is the best advice I’ve ever had in how to look at my own life’s journey, especially where he says that he forgets those things which are behind and reaches forth unto those things which are ahead.
Another thing that stands out for me in these verses is his own admission that he isn’t yet perfect, hasn’t yet “apprehended” that which he seeks for. He’s just like me, still striving and not yet there. That gives me great hope.
Until recently, I’ve spent most of my time concentrating on verses 13 and 14, but I recently noticed verse 12. It has been one of those things so redundantly worded in the King James Version English that I just skipped it rather than try to sort it out.
Where Paul says, “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” Upon closer inspection, Paul says his “apprehended” of Jesus Christ. It is past tense. Paul is already “laid hold of” by the Savior. Yes, he still isn’t perfect. Yes, he’s still pressing forward as he should. In his imperfection, he still knows that he is Christ’s, already caught by the best pursuer. In so many ways, I know that about myself too.