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Imitation of Christ Wk 4 of 10

January 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

 Running to Win

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 The Imitation of Christ Week 4 of 10

For a pittance men will travel a great distance, but for eternal life many will scarcely take a single step. They look ahead to puny gains and sometimes shamefully wrangle over a single penny; neither do they hesitate to wear themselves out working day and good portion picture1night for some foolish promise or trifling object.

But for the good that never changes, for the prize beyond all prizes, for the highest honor and the glory that never ends, men, alas, are too lazy to put forth the slightest effort. You should be ashamed, lazy and evergrumbling servant, when you see other men more eager to lose their souls than you are to gain life! They find greater joy in chasing after empty dreams than you have in pursuing the truth. – The Imitation of Christ, Book III, Ch. 3, pg. 76.

I’m a jogger. Correction. I USED to be a jogger. Now I’m someone who likes to slip my jogging experience into a conversation as though it has any bearing at all on my current lifestyle. Nevertheless, when I USED to jog, I took my time. I looked around, enjoyed the scenery, and walked every now and then, never really pushing myself. Often I sped up or slowed down based on the speed of music rolling though my iPod at the time. Even when I trained for a marathon, I developed a rather relaxed schedule, walking through it day by day, step by step until the morning of the race. My goal was always to finish – never to win.

The above passage from The Imitation was quite an eye-opener for me. I’m saddened to admit that I’ve been pursuing heaven like I pursued jogging. I casually examine my conscience at the end of the day; I try to keep my prayer and reading schedule; I participate in the sacraments. And my passion for Christ ebbs and flows depending on the spiritual book I’m reading at the moment. But there’s No drive. No discipline. Little passion (and my passion for knowledge probably works against me).

This begs a question: If I continue on my current path, will my pursuit of heaven end up like my pursuit of jogging – a mere reminiscence?

On the other hand, consider the athlete who runs to WIN. There’s such a grand difference between that athlete and, well, “me”. He has his eyes fixed on the finish line. He’s not there to take in the scenery. He’s completely focused on THE GOAL. His mind and body are one. He is aware of the steadiness of his breathing, the muscles in his legs, the rhythm of his body and the ground beneath his feet, whether soft or firm. Throughout his training, he is careful about everything that enters his body. Nothing gains admittance unless it contributes to his overall fitness. Most importantly, he LOVES the sport. He is passionate in his pursuit and his DESIRE TO WIN outweighs every obstacle. He’s not sidetracked by other objectives – he has only one in mind – TO WIN.

Will he win? I don’t know. But at this rate, his chances are much better than mine.

Saint Paul says, ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.’ (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Heaven is a GOAL, above all other goals, and I must pursue it with passion and purpose! My eyes must be fixed on the finish line. I must not become to attached to the things around me. I must be completely focused on THE GOAL. My mind and body must become one in the pursuit. Because I am in training, I must be careful about everything that enters my soul through my senses – whether a movie, commercial, picture, story or conversation – nothing may gain admittance unless it be edifying and contribute to my sanctification. Most importantly, I must LOVE the pursuit. I must LOVE my Beloved and desire to be with Him more than anything else. I cannot be sidetracked by the things of this world – I have only one GOAL – HEAVEN.

Can I develop the passion and determination necessary to WIN? I am confident that through God’s grace, I can, because I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I’ll be praying for that grace through the course of this book.

What about you? Are you running the race TO WIN? Do you LOVE our Lord and desire to be with Him in heaven more than anything else? Ask yourself whether Thomas à Kempis has a point. Do others find greater joy in chasing after empty dreams than you have in pursuing the truth?


Discussion Questions:

1. Do you find that you are “running to win” or are you “going through the motions”?  Regardless, how get yourself or keep yourself on track?

2. Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week's reading.


Reading Assignment:

Week 5: Book 3 Ch. 12-23


Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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