Inner Work, or spiritual work on oneself, is something that you do individually. It goes on quietly within yourself. If you're doing it, probably not too many people notice it. There are a lot of sacrifices that go on strictly within yourself. If someone affronts you or talks badly to you, turning the other cheek takes place inside of you. It is a fairly lonely thing. The Lord asks us to gird our self, wash our face, pray in quiet and so forth.
Recently I was watching a Race-Across-America bicycle marathon. That race inspired me as a metaphor of our efforts in doing inner spiritual work on ourselves. This bicycle race differs from competitive sports in that you are competing with yourself. The drama is an internal, personal one.
You see a man start in California. He gets on his bike and he's clean and fresh. He has a new suit, new bike, and he has an aim. His goal is to cross the country. That's his overall aim. Of course there are a lot of little aims involved. One fellow wanted to make Texas before he got off the bike. Pretty big little aim!
So they get on their bikes and you observe them. And as you watch and time goes on it gets dark and cold. There is rain and one rider has some kind of moths attacking him. You look at the faces and you see the effort and their quiet determination. And of course there's a supporting crowd behind them in all of this. Now the riders are starting to come into resistance. And the longer they go and the harder it gets, the more that resisting force is there.
You will see, if you watch, that each person has a different kind of relationship to that resistance. One person had expected to have lots of energy and found he had very little. He was shocked by that. Another person, a housewife with a family oriented support group, had a tremendous amount of energy and she was surprised by that. One fellow had been run over in a previous race, his back had been broken, and he was interviewed about that. Someone's brother who lost a leg in Vietnam had completed an entire race with one leg. Commentators started giving side stories of what kind of things went into making up these people and their aim.
Then the cyclists start going through their trials. They start thinking of whether they are going to do it or not; whether they are going to succeed. And should they sleep? They pass by the crowds and they don't sleep. Some pull over and you see them barely able to walk to a waiting van, people supporting them and rubbing their legs, and those cyclists are out of the race. You see the mother of one rider crying because she hates to see her daughter in this much pain. One fellow who decided he was going to just stay on the bike, went 1200 miles. His only statement was, "I have a strategy. I'm not getting off the bike."
"You mean you're not getting off tonight?" he was asked.
"I mean I'm not getting off the bike at all" he said. Then later during the race he fell and broke his collarbone.
If you watch their faces, you can see the nature of individuals struggling within themselves in relation to their aim. When they are riding it seems as if there is no one there and everything is going on inside themselves. That's where the struggle is taking place.
The most moving part to me was when they arrived at the finish line. What an enormous outpouring! The excitement, the enthusiasm for these people crossing the line, making their aim! Even the people who were rooting for the other team started rooting for this one fellow. Then the crowds came around and found the woman who had only come part of the way and they supported her. It is a tremendous demonstration of what is happening on this planet. People striving towards an aim, making incredible efforts to overcome limitations.
If you watch the Special Olympics, it is a very moving thing to see retarded or disabled children struggling with their limitations to make some aim, whether it's merely to participate in the race, to win the race, or just to get across the line. They have their aim, they have their disabilities, and then the struggle takes place. The Lord says that we are the lame, the blind, and the weak, and we really are, in terms of this Inner Work. We are a very sad crew, in the spiritual Special Olympics. The Lord came down on earth Himself to help us in this, and I think that's why people are so moved when they watch this sort of effort.
It is also important to know that there are lots of angels waiting at the finish line. They're called welcoming angels. There is more rejoicing in heaven over one saved sinner....There is a special kind of rejoicing when spirits from this earth come into heaven. There is something different about people who make it through the race. This is a tough race. It is very hard work, but it is the only race worth running. And if we try, He runs the race for us. In the Word we are told:
The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. There is no searching of His understanding. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-30)
This book is about the Inner Work which is necessary for man to be born again. It is about the aim of all aims, "Thy will be done".
The effort is called simply, The Work.
Peter S. Rhodes, Bryn Athyn PA 1991