It is instructive to realise how our minds get conditioned to seeing (or not seeing) things. It was this conditioning which made it a strange sight, initially taking me by surprise. As I stepped out of Melbourne Central onto Little Lonsdale Street recently and turned towards Elizabeth Street, I spied a runner out of the corner of my eye, weaving through the pedestrian traffic. Clearly it was not an easy task she had set herself, not because she was not up to the run, but because the pedestrian traffic was not conducive to the speedier transport of the runner. Unable to maintain a steady pace the runner weaved in and out, sometimes accelerating, at other times doing a quick sidestep. Much more demanding exercise than a simple jog, the runner persisted in defying the normal pattern of street behaviour, working to a different rhythm and demand.
I saw in this runner an image of christian discipleship: of someone who was not prepared to conform to the pattern set around her, but instead was willing to pursue a different calling. How often do we walk into a setting, and conform to expected patterns of behaviour, often expressed in old adages and sayings “Don’t rock the boat”, “What will the neighbours think?”, and “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” There are times when to be a disciple of Jesus is to risk appearing the fool, to risk upsetting the establishment, to set out on bold new courses.
Whilst the church has developed a reputation for being a very conservative institution, its history does not always echo that, neither does the life of Jesus reflect it. In seeking to be people in the image of Jesus, we too need to consider the pressures to conform to moulds, and reflect whether they are appropriate.
In her own way, this city runner reminded me that we are invited by Jesus to be people who run in the city, dance in the museum, and sing in the park, demonstrating almost a reckless enjoyment of life itself, and a willingness to step out of the constricting norms into which we have unwittingly been pressed.
April 28, 2002