top of page

14 OT A "Running Twice as Fast" ~ Dr. Susan McGurgan

“Now, here, you see,” said the Red Queen to Alice, “it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

One summer,

when she was just the right age

for adventure,

she discovered the stories

of a girl named Alice.

Lucky Alice

tumbled down a rabbit hole

and walked through a looking glass

into strange and wonderful worlds—

places far removed from her own

very ordinary

(and therefore very boring) life.

Her new favorite books

became grubby and worn

as she kept one eye on the page,

and one eye on her neighbor’s cat

napping in the sun.

She hoped against hope

that he would be like the cat in the story:

a cat who could appear

and disappear at will

leaving nothing behind but a smile.

But after careful observation,

(and some bribery involving tuna)

she was forced to admit

that the cat was ordinary…

just like her.

That summer,

she was almost always late for supper.

If her parents were looking,

she could be found

talking to caterpillars

(just to see if they talked back)

studying the mirror in hallway

just to see of it led somewhere else)

or poking a stick down a promising hole

near the honeysuckle vine

(just to see if a rabbit appeared)

Alice’s adventures

made her own life seem tame and dull.

After all,

how could a patch of suburban crabgrass,

a sleepy neighborhood cat,

and a houseful of commonplace

(and completely unmagical) mirrors

compare to playing croquet with a Queen

and having tea with a Mad Hatter?

She couldn’t wait to grow up.

She had big dreams for such a little girl.

Bold dreams that would take her

out of Oklahoma

and far into the big, wide world.

She was determined to make her life


She would travel to new lands.

Explore ancient and mysterious ruins.

Meet exotic and interesting people.

Have exciting adventures

and if along the way,

she tumbled down the occasional rabbit hole,


so much the better!


like so many people,

she discovered that reality

was a bit different than the dream.

One day,

years later,

when her childhood was boxed up

and put away on a shelf,

she realized

that just like Alice and the Red Queen

she had been running faster and faster

but she never seemed to pass anything.

She had always believed

that if she ran very fast

for a very long time

she would get somewhere.

And yet

no matter how fast she ran

no matter how many hours she worked,

or how well she played the game

she found herself

looking around in surprise,



and in just about

the same place where she first began.

From deep within her memory,

came the Red Queen’s voice saying

“It takes all the running you can do,

just to keep in the same place.

If you want to get somewhere else,

you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

Running twice as fast!

Was that the secret?

Was that even possible?

She had become skilled at multi-tasking years ago.

The master schedule posted in her kitchen

looked like the plans to invade a small country.

Its execution required precision timing,

fearless driving

and the occasional miracle of bi-location.

Her freezer was filled with

carefully prepared meals.

Her van was kind of like

the archaeological site

she dreamed of years ago--

Future historians

could sift through the strata of hockey gear,

half-finished school projects,

lost permission slips

and last week's junk mail

and to reconstruct her life on the run.

She couldn’t remember

the last time her family

simply sat in the evening and talked—

because there was homework

to be supervised,

orphan socks

to be matched,

and a task list

that never seemed to grow shorter.

And regardless of her determination

to make life anything but ordinary

she began to realize that

owning unusual things

didn’t mean very much

if you never had time to see them.

And the sad truth

about exotic people and places

is that they eventually become,



Much to her dismay,

even falling down the occasional rabbit hole

wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Despite her best efforts,

her elderly father

was lost in a world of loneliness and grief.

Her brother struggled with

a body broken down

from a lifetime of hard labor.

Her subordinate spent his lunch hour

rifling her wastebasket

and measuring his backside for her chair.

She and her husband

had become tag-team parents,

barking reminders

and exchanging car keys

as they passed on the street.

They went to mass every Sunday

(at least most…)

but in shifts,

to accommodate Sunday soccer games

and his weekly teleconference to India.

And although she was tap dancing

as fast as she could

every time she came to Church

she felt…

not inspired

not healed,

not reconciled

not prayerful,


or even very thankful.

Most Sundays,

she just felt…



one eye on her boys

and one eye on the altar,

it seemed to her as if Eucharist

had become just one more meal,

to be grabbed on the fly.

Whenever she thought that,

she mentally bit her lip

and prayed extra hard,

hoping God would understand…

or at least

not smite her where she sat.

In truth,

no matter how fast

or how hard she ran

here she was,

in the place she first began.

As she sat in the pew,

in that moment between planning

Monday’s schedule

and reviewing her Father’s prescriptions,

she heard these words…

Come to me, all you who labor

and are burdened,

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you

and learn from me,

for I am meek and humble of heart;

and you will find rest for yourselves.

For my yoke is easy

and my burden light.


It sounded so tempting.

So inviting.

So easy.

Too easy.

What was the catch?

The exclusions?

Where was the fine print?

If only, she thought,

If only it really was that easy.

But she had learned

nothing in this world

is as easy as it sounds.


throughout that week

the idea of finding rest;

of being at peace,

of laying down burdens

and relying on someone bigger

just wouldn’t go away.

It was as if Jesus was saying to her,

I am not leading you to the answer,

selling you the answer

or bargaining about the answer.

I AM the answer.

She realized that for her entire life

she had been running alone.

And it was only when she was weary enough—

weary all the way down to her bones

that she could hear

and receive this invitation.

Come to me all you who labor

and are burdened

and I will give you rest.

Take my yoke upon you

and learn from me.

It seemed counter intuitive,

and frankly more than a little crazy--

to lay down burdens

and take on a yoke,

and still somehow

find peace and rest.

But that is exactly how it works.

Taking on the yoke of Christ

harnesses us to him.

It aligns us correctly,

points us in the right direction,

down the right furrow.

Taking on the yoke of Christ

allows us to walk beside Him

matching stride for stride.

The yoke binds us into intimacy,

converting us from the solitary

and exhausted runner,

always striving,

never arriving,

into a partnered disciple,

walking with purpose

and discovering peace.

This peace is not as the world gives

but as God gives.

The yoke of Christ

does not prevent sore backs

or painful blisters.

It does not remove rocks from the field,

or guarantee calm weather.


the yoke teaches us

that when storms arrive;

when boulders fill our path,

these challenges will be shared


taken up into the heart of God

and returned to us as life and hope.

The yoke guarantees that when we run,

we will actually go somewhere.

When she was just a little girl,

she was determined to make her life

anything but ordinary.

She would explore ancient worlds,

meet interesting people

lead exciting adventures.

If she fell down the occasional rabbit hole,

so much the better!

Fortunately for her,

one day,

she finally understood how


an ordinary life could truly be.

Fortunately for her,

one very ordinary day,

she stopped running long enough

to listen--

to hear the invitation

to lay down her burdens

and take on a yoke.

Come to me, all you who labor

and are burdened,

and I will give you rest.

197 views2 comments


Susan, thank you so much for bringing this one back! One of my all time favorite Susan McGurgan’s, only behind the abundance of Cana and ”I will not leave you orphans”, both of which so enriched my understanding of God. Such incarnational imagery! “The master schedule posted in her kitchen looked like the plans to invade a small country.” Almost too much of a treat for just one Sunday. At my parish the homily will be read word for word off my iPad, fully credited. Thank you!

susan mcgurgan
susan mcgurgan
Jul 08, 2023
Replying to

Fr. Martin!! So great to hear from you! I hope you are well, and that your new parish is thriving. I know it must be exciting (and a bit crazy) to establish a new parish community. Thank you so much for the kind words. I didn't really want to repost this, but when I started working on the homily, nothing really resonated more than this one, so I reposted it with a little updating. You are so welcome to preach it! I would love to come back to SA for staff development, day of reflection, facilitating pastoral planning, or just hanging out! Blessings to you and your community, and thanks for your support.

bottom of page