Just Thinking: The Stories We Speak | JT 25.3

Posted by Danielle DuRant on May 25, 2017
Topic: Just Thinking Magazine

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A Letter from the Editor, Danielle DuRant

During the 2017 Boston Marathon, first-time marathoner Jordan Hasay repeated to herself, “Good job, Paula, good job, Paula.” “Paula” is not her middle name but rather a reference to Paula Radliffe, the women’s world record holder for the marathon—and the name Hasay’s mother affectionately called her before she died unexpectedly a few months ago. That epithet and the numbers 2:25 to 2:23, the window of time her legendary coach Alberto Salazar told her she was capable of running, spurred Hasay to a 2:23 finish. She shattered the fastest marathon debut by an American woman by almost three minutes and finished in third place, an amazing accomplishment for an athlete who had never competed at that long distance before.

Afterwards, Hasay told Runners World, “She always calls me Paula…. So I just kept telling myself, ‘Good job, Paula, good job, Paula.’ That helped me get through some of the tough times…. I felt really blessed to have her out there running every step with me.”

The sentences we speak to ourselves shape who we are and who we are becoming. Sports psychologists have long recognized the power of words and their effect on an athlete during training and particularly competition. Words form images in our minds, create the stories we tell ourselves, and even portend our future. “Paula” and “2:23 is possible” were writ large during Hasay’s training and race; as her comments so poignantly reveal, she even felt her mother beside her as she ran.

Throughout the Scriptures we discover this same metaphor of the transforming images words can create: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105) and “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart” (Proverbs 3:3). “For the word of God is living and active,” says Hebrews 4:12, “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” As such, the call to remember God’s words and his acts in history is a central theme throughout the Scriptures; the verb “remember” is found nearly 130 times in the Old Testament alone. The verb connotes not just “being mindful” of something or someone, namely God, but also “to trust” and “to hold onto.”

Not surprisingly, the verb often stands in the imperative: “Remember the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 7:18). “Remember the day you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb” (Deut. 4:10). “Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome” (Nehemiah 4:14). In fact, in every instance in Deuteronomy, “remember” is found in the context of God’s covenant with his people. When they were in Egypt, they listened to another story—the tempting lies of their oppressors—and forgot God’s words. And so, when God gives Moses the Ten Commandments, He repeats this injunction, “Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (see Deut. 5:6 and 15). These, of course, are the very words that Jewish people utter today when celebrating Passover.

Likewise, the articles in this issue encourage us to consider the story that shapes each of our lives. Is it, Vince Vitale and Ravi Zacharias ask, the assumption that all religions basically say the same thing? Is it, surmises Stuart McAllister, the shout of social media and the constant lure of new experiences over the whisper of wisdom? Is it perhaps, asks Jill Carattini, that we have not remembered God’s story or recognized the power of competing narratives? Or is it, rather, the felt sense of inadequacy and shame that cause us to question our story as God’s people? As our colleague Simon Wenham astutely observes, “Such insecurities are only natural in a world that puts so much emphasis on what we achieve, but the gospel message is radically different because it applies to everyone equally, irrespective of who we are or what we have done.”

We pray as you read through another 25th anniversary issue of Just Thinking that you may be spurred on by the transformative power of the gospel message and God’s every step beside you.


Danielle DuRant, Editor