Home > Christianity, community, Jesus, Spiritual formation > That Dude in the Wool Sweater

That Dude in the Wool Sweater

My deepest fears were realized this week, early one morning as I was out for a nice, brisk run.

Lost in thought as the soles of my technically designed running shoes bounced quietly off of the frost-laden sidewalk, I was jarred back into reality by the loud pounding of clumsy feet.

If you are a runner, you probably take pride in your smooth gait, your quiet footstrike and your effortless-looking glide.

But this dude had none of that.

And to make matters worse, he was running faster than I was.

And to make matters even more worse, he was dressed in the most garish running outfit I have ever seen: a patterned wool sweater, a wool hat, ankle-baring cargo pants and shoes most likely purchased at Payless Shoe Source. It was like he’d rummaged through a long-forgotten clothes-drive bin and picked out anything that looked warm.

And he was running faster than me.

Me of the dri-fit shirt, the running tights (don’t judge!), the specially sewn running socks, and well-placed reflectors that made oncoming cars think they were caught in the tractor beam of a low-flying UFO.

And he was running faster than me.

My first thought came rather quickly and easily – he was late for class, for a meeting, for something important. Or he wanted to be first in line when the library opened.

But he kept running.

So then I told myself he was just out for a short run, perhaps a quarter mile or so – you know, to get his blood pumping for his morning study session in the library which he would be the first to enter once the doors opened.

But, he kept running.

That dude in the wool sweater was running faster than me.

Then my mind flashed back to the New York Marathon – and those last few miles that felt longer than I-84 in the middle of Wyoming – and me, dying on the inside and dying on the outside, struggling to put one foot in front of the other, being passed by 80 year old ladies, 250 pound dudes and 16 year old kids who in their angst-y teenage bravado decided to enter the race that day.

Right then and there I knew that running was about more than looking like a runner. It was about putting in the time to make it to the finish line, to finish your goal, to accomplish something difficult. And even if you did all those things, you still might get passed by a man with a cane, shorts that barely covered his underwear and a mouthful of $20,000 dentures.

That dude in the wool sweater made all these thoughts flash through my mind, made me remember what was so clear that November morning on the streets of the Big Apple – that thing I vowed I would never forget.

But until that dude in the sweater came prancing by, I had forgotten.

So here it is, in hopes you’ll help me remember.

Whatever my task in life, whatever my hopes, whatever I might be dreaming about, the way I look will not get me there.

I might appear to you to be spiritually grounded, but perhaps I just know the lingo. I might seem like I have it all together, like the problems of the world just roll off my back, but maybe I’m just good at knowing in which dark corner of my soul they need to be hid.

So when I’m dressed in my running gear, when I’m holding my Bible, when I’ve got a scowl on my face, when I’m standing in front of you as someone who must have something to say, when I’m praying out loud, when I’m sitting down in worship while everyone is standing with hands held high – don’t be fooled.

I might just be a dude in a wool sweater…or might be the guy who’s dressed for the occasion but is getting passed.

I can’t tell anything just by looking. What I want to know is, what does the inside of my cup look like?

That’s what matters. That’s where Jesus looks. And when that is clean, then the outside will take care of itself.

And who knows – maybe next time you’ll see me running in a patterned wool sweater…

  1. John
    December 14, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    Very funny! And I know who you mean, I’ve seen him running (fast), he’s a student I’ve had in class.

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